THIRD MEANS: THE RIGHTEOUS DEEDS
It may be derived from the Holy Qur’an that after faith (Iman), righteous deeds play the most important role in attaining self-perfection, God’s Nearness, higher human ranks and pure delightful life of the Next World. Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an:
مَنْ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا مِنْ ذَكَرٍ أَوْ أُنثَى وَهُوَ مُؤْمِنٌ فَلَنُحْيِيَنَّهُ حَيَاةً طَيِّبَةً وَلَنَجْزِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْرَهُمْ بِأَحْسَنِ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ.
“Whosoever doeth right, whether male or female, and is a believer, him verily we shall quicken with good life, and We shall pay them a recompense in proportion to the best of what they used to do. 16:97”
فَمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُوا لِقَاءَ رَبِّهِ فَلْيَعْمَلْ عَمَلًا صَالِحًا وَلَا يُشْرِكْ بِعِبَادَةِ رَبِّهِ أَحَدًا.
“And whoever hopeth for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord. 18:110”
مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ.
“Whoso desireth power (should know that) all power belongeth to Allah. Unto Him good words ascend, and the pious deed doth He exalt.” 35:10”
God, the Glorious, in this verse explains that all power, prestige and wealth belong to Him and the sacred word that is the clean and pure soul of a monotheist and righteous belief in monotheism will ascend towards Him and this will be made possible through the righteous deeds, which if performed with pure intention and sincerity affect the doer’s self nourishing him for attaining perfection. The Holy Qur’an clearly explains that the pure and charming life of the Hereafter and attainment of the most sublime spiritual position of God’s Nearness and Countenance is possible only through the combination of belief and righteous deeds. The Holy Qur’an has emphasized the importance of righteous deeds a lot and regards it as the only means for achieving eternal salvation and prosperity. The value of righteous deeds depends upon their being compatible with religious law and revelations, because the Creator Who is familiar with the special creation of human beings knows his path of perfection and salvation and therefore has revealed it to the Holy Prophet (a.s) so that he may present it to the people. Almighty God says in the Holy Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ.
“O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and the messenger when He calleth you to that which quickeneth you. 8:24”
The righteous deeds have been introduced by the Shari`ah as mandatory (wajib) or recommended (mustahabb), and a wayfarer through performing them may undertake his spiritual migration leading him towards God’s Nearness. This is the only way and all other ways are deviated and misleading and will never take a wayfarer to his final destination. A wayfarer must be absolutely obedient to religious law and for his mystical journey should not follow any other path except the religious path and should avoid strictly engaging into invocations and incantations which do not have any authenticity in religious law because they do not take a wayfarer towards his destination; rather they carry him farther apart from his destination, which is forbidden in Shari`ah. To start with, a wayfarer should try his best to perform all religious obligations correctly according to regulations because their renunciation will not result in attainment of higher spiritual positions however seriously he may endeavor in performing recommended deeds and engaging into invocations and incantations.
During the second stage, the recommended deeds and invocations can be included in the program. The wayfarer at this stage according to his spiritual strength and personal capabilities may perform recommended deeds and the more he endeavors the greater will be the possibilities of his attaining higher spiritual positions. From the point of view of superiority, it should be pointed out that all recommended deeds are not equal rather some of them excel over others and with the result some of them can be more better and favorite, as have been mentioned in the books of supplication and traditions. A wayfarer can select some supplications, prayers, invocations and incantations from these books and engage himself on a regular basis. The more he performs them, the greater will be the purity and illumination of his soul enabling him to ascend higher and higher toward the exalted gnostic stations.
We will point out some of the righteous deeds and for the remaining ones, the readers are advised to refer to other books. Yet, it should be reminded that mandatory and recommended deeds, invocations and supplications will be considered as righteous and favorite deeds only if they are performed with sincerity. The authenticity of a deed and its becoming favorite depends in proportion to the sincerity of the performer. From this consideration, we must first discuss sincerity (Ikhla¥) and describe some of the righteous deeds later on.
The position of sincerity has been described as one of the highest stages of a wayfarer’s gnostic journey and attainment of self‑perfection. Because of sincerity, heart is the center of the Divine illumination whereby wisdom and knowledge flowing through heart manifest themselves through appearing upon the tongue. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
مَنْ أَخْلَصَ للهِ أَرْبَعِينَ صَبَاحاً جَرَتْ يَنَابِيعُ الحِكْمَةِ مِنْ قَلْبِهِ عَلَى لِسَانِهِ.
“Whoever devotes himsetf sincerely for a period of forty days for Almighty God will have the streams of wisdom flowing from his heart to appear upon his tongue.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70. pp. 242)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
أيْنَ الّذينَ أخْلَصوا أعْمالَهُم للهِ وَطَهَّروا قُلوبَهُم لِمَواضِعِ نَظَرِ اللهِ.
“Where are those who devoted their deeds sincerely to Almighty God and purified their hearts so that they absorb God’s special attention to them?” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 1 72)
Lady Fa§imah al-Zahra’, daughter of the Holy Prophet said:
مَن أصْعَدَ إلى اللهِ خالِصَ عَمَلِهِ أهبَطَ اللهُ إلَيهِ أفضَلَ مَصْلَحَتِهِ.
“Almighty God will surely descend the best of His benevolence upon him whoever sends pure and sincere worship to Him.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 249)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
قُلوبُ عِبادِ اللهِ الطّاهِرَةِ مَواضِعُ نَظَرِ اللهِ سُبحانَهُ، فَمَنْ طَهَّرَ قَلبَهُ نَظَرَ اللهُ إلَيْهِ.
“The hearts of the believers are reserved for God’s special attention; therefore, whoever purifies his heart will certainly be blessed with God’s special attention.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 538)
The Holy Prophet (a.s) narrated on the authority of Archangel Gabriel that Almighty God said:
الإخْلاصُ سِرٌّ مِن أسْرارِي إستَوْدَعْتُهُ قَلبَ مَن أحْبَبْتُ مِن عِبادِي.
“Sincerity is one of My secrets which I will deposit in the heart of him whom I will love among My servants.” (Bihar al-Anwar, val. 70. pp. 249)
Sincerity consists of various degrees the lowest of which is that a believer performs all acts of worship strictly for the sake of Almighty God free from all traces of polytheism, hypocrisy and ostentation. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
إنَّ اللهَ لا يَنظُرُ إلى صُوَرِكُم وَأعْمالِكُم، وإنَّما يَنظُرُ إلى قُلوبِكُم.
“Almighty God does not look at your faces or deeds; rather He looks inside your hearts.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, p. 248)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) narrated that Almighty God says:
أنَا خَيرُ شريك مَن أشرك معي في عملٍ عمله لا أقبله إلاّ ما كان لي خالصاً.
“I am the best partner. I do not accept any act in which you take partners besides Me. I only accept deeds which are sincerely done for Me.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 243)
إنَّ اللهَ يَحشُرُ النّاسَ عَلى نِيّاتِهِم يَومَ القِيامَةِ.
“On the Day of Judgment, Almighty God will judge people according to their intents.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 209)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
طُوبى لِمَنْ أخْلَصَ للهِ العِبادَةَ وَالدُّعاءَ وَلَم يَشغَلْ قَلبَهُ بِما تَرى عَيناهُ وَلَم يَنْسَ ذِكْرَ اللهِ بِما تَسمَعُ أُذُناهُ وَلَم يَحْزَنْ صَدرُهُ بِما أُعطِيَ غَيرُهُ.
“Blessed be him who warships and prays only for the sake of Almighty God, does not engage his heart in whatsoever is seen by his eyes, does not forget God’s Remembrance for whatsoever enters into his ears and and does not feel envious for seeing things bestowed upon others.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70‑229)
إماراتُ السَّعادَةِ إخْلاصُ العَمَلِ.
“Sincerity in deeds is an indication of pleasure.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 43)
An act of worship which is accepted by Almighty God and earns perfection and His Nearness is that free from all traces of self‑conceit, dissimulation, egotism and ostentation. The only criterion for acceptance of deeds is sincerity and devotion. The more the degree of sincerity be the greater the perfection and merit of the deed be. Worshippers can be grouped into five categories: first, those who worship Almighty God because of fear of the punishment of Hellfire; second, those who carry out the commandments for the sake of the bounties of Paradise and rewards of the Hereafter. Yet, worshipping for this sake is not unacceptable and does not prevent the receipt of the rewards appointed because the Holy Qur’an and traditions have very often utilized both of the above methods for the people’s guidance. Moreover, the Holy Prophet, the Infallible Imams and God’s Favorite Saints showed their fear of the punishments threatened by Almighty God and continuously cried for help and, in like fashion, they showed their eagerness to receive God’s bounties and Paradise. Third, those who worship Almighty God because they consider Him the one and only worthy of being worshipped and they want to thank Him for His bounties and blessings. Such aim does not have any contradiction with sincerity as criterion for the acceptance of deeds. Therefore, in traditions, in order to encourage people to obey God, His bounties and favors have been shown. The Holy Prophet said:
أفَلا أكُونُ عَبداً شَكوراً؟
“Should I not be a thankful servant?”
Although the deeds of those of the three aforementioned groups are accepted, the third group carries a special distinction because its members are accompanied with a higher degree of sincerity. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
إنَّ قَوماً عَبَدوا اللهَ رَغْبةً فَتِلكَ عِبادَةُ التُّجّارِ؛ وإنَّ قَوماً عَبَدوا اللهَ رَهْبَةً فَتِلكَ عِبادَةُ العَبيدِ؛ وإنّ قَوماً عَبدوا اللهَ شُكْراً فَتِلكَ عِبادَةُ الأحْرارِ.
“Some people have worshipped Almighty God for their desire for His bounties; this is the worship of merchants. Some people have worshipped Him for fear of His punishment; this is the worship of slaves. Some people have worshipped Him for thanking Him; this is the worship of the free.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol 70, pp. 196).
The fourth group of worshippers are those who worship for the sake of attaining self‑perfection and self-nourishment. Of course, perusal of this objective does not harm sincerity and devotion which is the criterion for acceptance of deeds. The fifth group are the most favorite and distinguished servants of Almighty God. Since they recognize Him very well and consider Him as the Fountainhead of all Blessings and Perfection, they worship Him. Because of their being aware of the Absolute and Infinite Power of the Lord and have not discovered any other effective source of power except Him, they consider Him alone worthy of being worshipped and they love and humiliate themseves before His Exalted Glory. This is the highest degree of sincerity and devotion. Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
إنَّ النّاسَ يَعبُدونَ اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلى ثَلاثَةِ أوْجُهٍ: فَطَبَقَةٌ يَعبُدونَهُ رَغْبَةً فِي ثَوابِهِ فَتِلْكَ عِبادَةُ الحُرَصاءِ وَهُوَ الطَّمَعُ، وَآخَرونَ يَعبُدونَهُ خَوفاً مِن النّارِ فَتِلْكَ عِبادَةُ العَبِيدِ وَهيَ رَهبَةٌ، ولَكِنّي أعْبُدُهُ حُبّاً لَهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ فَتِلكَ عِبادَةُ الكِرامِ وَهُو الأمْنُ لِقَولِهِ عَزَّ وَجَلِّ ﴿وَهُمْ مِنْ فَزَعٍ يَوْمَئِذٍ آمِنُونَ. قُلْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمْ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ.﴾ فَمَنْ أحَبَّ اللهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أحَبَّهُ اللهُ، وَمَنْ أحَبَّهُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ كانَ مِن الآمِنينَ.
“People worship Almighty God in three categories: a class worships Him for the sake of eternal rewards. This is the worship of greedy, which stands for greed. The second class worships Him because of fear of Hellfire. This is the worship of slaves, which stands from fear. Yet, I worship Him for his Love; and this is the worship of the honorable. It stands for security, for Almighty God says, “And such are safe from fear that Day. 27:89” “Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love Allah, follow me; Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. 3:31” Hence, one who loves Almighty God and one who is loved by Almighty God are within the safe.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 197)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
ما عَبَدْتُكَ خَوفاً مِن نارِكَ وَلا طَمَعاً فِي جَنَّتِكَ، وَلَكِنْ وَجَدتُكَ أهْلاً لِلعِبادَةِ فَعَبَدْتُكَ.
“O God! I worship you neither because of fear from Hellfire nor for the greed of Paradise; yet, I have found You the worthiest of being worshipped and thus I worship you.” (Bihar al-Anwar, pp. 197)
All the aforementioned groups are sincere and their deeds are accepted, but not all of them enjoy the same degree. From the point of view of perfection, the fifth group is the most perfect.
It is worth mentioning that the people of distinguished ranks are not disqualified as much as the requirements of the lower ranks are concerned; rather in addition to their being qualified for lower ranks, they possess higher distinguished credentials. The righteous and sincere slaves of Almighty God are afraid of Him hoping for His Mercy and Compassion, thanking His Bounties and are anxious for attaining spiritual nearness to Him, but their motivation behind worship is not limited to the abovementioned things only since they have discovered a better understanding of Almighty God and thus praise and worship Him.
Those distinguished and chosen ones, in spite of their attaining exalted spiritual positions, have not given up the lower positions, because a wayfarer traveling upon the way of perfection, when reaches relatively higher spiritual stations, possesses the qualifications of lower stations which have been attained by him earlier in his spiritual journey.
Our discussions are so far related to sincerity and devotion in worship, but sincerity is not limited to worship only; rather a wayfarer gradually reaches to a point whereby he purifies himself as well his heart for Almighty God cleansing the heart’s dwelling from all sorts of alien existence so much so that all actions, deeds and thoughts are assigned exclusively to Almighty God and the wayfarer does not perform anything but for His pleasure. He is not afraid of anyone other than God and does not trust anyone other than Him to the extent that even his friendship and enmity are done exclusively for God’s pleasure and this is known as the highest degree of sincerity. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
طُوبى لِمَن أخْلَصَ للهِ عَمَلَهُ وَعِلْمَهُ وَحُبَّهُ وَبُغْضَهُ وَأخْذَهُ وَتَرْكَهُ وَكَلامَهُ وَصَمْتَهُ.
“Blessed be him whose deeds, knowledge, love, grudge, possession, renunciation speaking and silence are offered exclusively for the sake of Almighty God.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 462)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
مَن أحَبَّ للهِ وأبْغَضَ للهِ وَأعْطَى للهِ وَمَنعَ للهِ فَهوَ مِمَّنْ كَمُلَ إيمَانُهُ.
“The faith of him Whoever loves, grudges, donates and refrains for the sake of Almighty God is perfect.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70, pp. 248)
ما أنْعَمَ اللهُ عَلى عَبدٍ أجَلّ مِن أنْ لا يَكونَ فِي قَلبِهِ مَع اللهِ غَيرُه.
“The ever best bestowal of Almighty God upon a servant is impeding his heart to have anyone other than Almighty God.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 70 pp. 249)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
أيْنَ القُلوبُ الّتي وُهِبتْ للهِ وَعوقِدَتْ عَلى طَاعَةِ الله؟
“Where are the hearts that have been donated to Almighty God and been committed exclusively to obeying Him?” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 172)
When a wayfarer attains that privileged position, Almighty God purifies him for Himself and through Divine Illumination, intuition and revelations immunizes him against sins and transgressions. Such one is called God’s devoted friend as being the most distinguished servant of Almighty God. The Holy Qur’an says:
إِنَّا أَخْلَصْنَاهُمْ بِخَالِصَةٍ ذِكْرَى الدَّارِ.
“Lo! We purified them with a pure thought, remembrance of the Home (of the Hereafter). 37:46”
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ مُوسَى إِنَّهُ كَانَ مُخْلَصًا وَكَانَ رَسُولًا نَبِيًّا.
“And make mention in the Scripture of Moses. Lo! he was chosen, and he was a messenger (of Allah), a prophet. 19:51”
God’s devoted servants ultimately reach to a position whereby even Satan becomes disappointed to make them deviated. The Holy Qur’an quotes Satan speaking to Almighty God:
قَالَ فَبِعِزَّتِكَ لَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ. إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمْ الْمُخْلَصِينَ.
“He said: Then, by Thy might, I surely will beguile them every one Save Thy single-minded slaves among them. 38:82-83”
Attaining such exalted position is not an easy thing; it requires self‑purification, endeavors and struggle in worshipping. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
الإخْلاصُ ثَمَرَةُ العِبادَةِ.
“Sincerity is the fruit of worship.” (Ghurar al-Hikam, pp. 1 7)
According to traditions, engagements in worshipping and invocations for a period of forty days can be effective and useful for attaining inner purity, enlightenment of soul and the position of sincerity. However, this cannot be accomplished in a single attempt; it should be attempted gradually after passing through various stages of sincerity.
SOME RIGHTEOUS DEEDS
The only path that leads a wayfarer to perfection and helps ascend towards God’s Nearness is the obedience to the revelations and following the path shown by the Prophets. The path they followed has been defined as performance of mandatory and recommended religious deeds which are called righteous deeds. All such deeds incorporated into the Shari`ah and registered in the Holy Qur’an as well as other books of traditions are called righteous deeds which must be followed and some of which will be discussed hereinafter:
Prayer is one of the best means for undertaking spiritual migration towards Almighty God and attaining the exalted position of His Nearness. Imam al‑Rida (a.s) said:
الصَّلاةُ قُربانُ كُلِّ تَقِيٍّ.
“Prayer is a means of attaining God’s nearness for the righteous ones.” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 265)
Mu`awiyah ibn Wahab asked Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) about the best deed that can act as means of nearness to God, and the Imam answered:
لا أعلم شيئاً بعد المعرفة أفضل من هذه الصلاة. ألا ترى العبد الصالح عيسى بن مريم عليه السلام قال: ﴿وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ مَا دُمْتُ حَيًّا.﴾
“After the enlightenment of God’s Essence, I do not know anything better than the prayer. From this cause, the righteous servant of God, Jesus son of Mary, said, ‘And hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive. 19:31’” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 264)
أحَبُّ الأعْمالِ إلَى اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ الصَّلاةُ. وَهِيَ آخِرُ وَصايا الأنْبِياءِ. فَما أحْسَنَ الرَّجُلَ يَغتَسِلُ أو يَتَوَضّأُ فَيُسبِغُ الوضُوءَ ثُمّ يَتَنَحّى حَيثُ لا يَراهُ أنِيسٌ فَيُشرِفُ عَلَيهِ وَهوَ راكِعٌ وَساجِدٌ. إنَّ العَبدَ إذا سَجَدَ فَأطالَ السُّجودَ قالَ إبلِيسُ: يا وَيلاهُ! أطاعَ وَعَصَيتُ وَسَجَدَ وأبَيْتُ.
“The most esteemed and favorite deeds to Almighly God is the Prayer. It is the last will of all the Prophets. How good it is that a servant takes a bath or performs ablution, then retires into a secluded corner where he cannot be seen by anyone, and have the honor of perfoming genuflexion and prostration. When a servants prostrates himself lengthily, Satan says, ‘Woe unto me! This servant has obeyed Almighty God while I transgressed and he has prostrated while I refused.’” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 264)
Imam al-Rida (a.s) said:
أقْرَبُ ما يَكونُ العَبدُ مِن اللهِ وَهوَ ساجِدٌ، وَذلِكَ قَولُ اللهِ تَعالى ﴿وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِبْ.﴾
“The nearest position between a servant and Almighty God is the state of prostration, because Almighty God has said: ‘But prostrate thyself, and draw near (to Almighty God)96:19’” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 265)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
إذَا قامَ المُصَلّي إلى الصَّلاةِ نَزَلَتْ عَلَيهِ الرّحْمَةُ مِن أعْنانِ السَّماءِ إلَى أعْنانِ الأرْضِ وَحَفَّتْ بِهِ المَلائِكَةُ وَنَاداهُ مَلَكٌ: لَو يَعْلَمُ هذا المُصَلِّي ما فِي الصَّلاةِ ما انْفَتَلَ.
“When one stands for performing a prayer, God’s Blessings descend upon him from the upper part of the sky to the earth and the angels encircle him and one of them says: ‘If this performer of prayer knows the worth of his prayer, he will never finish it.’” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 265)
The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
إذَا قامَ العَبدُ المُؤمِنُ فِي صَلاتِهِ نَظَرَ (أو أقْبَلَ) اللهُ إلَيهِ حَتىّ يَنصَرِفَ وَأظَلَّتْهُ الرَّحْمَةُ مِن فَوقِ رأسِهِ إلى أفُقِ السَّماءِ وَالمَلائِكَةُ تَحُفُّهُ مِن حَولِهِ إلَى أفُقِ السَّماءِ وَوَكَّلَ اللهُ بِهِ مَلَكاً قائِماً عَلى رَأسِهِ يَقولُ لهُ: أيُّها المُصَلِّي، لَو تَعْلَمُ مَن يَنظُرُ إلَيكَ وَمَنْ تُناجِي ما الْتَفَتَّ وَلا زِلْتَ مِن مَوضِعِكَ أبَداً.
“When a believer stands for prayer, Almighty God looks at him until he finishes, His blessings cover him up to the sky; the angels encircle him and Almighty God assigns an angel who says: O performer of the prayer! If you know who is looking at you and with whom you are communicating, you will never turn your face or change your place.” (al-Kafi, vol. 3, pp. 265)
Heart presence in Prayer
Prayer is a celestial formula and Divine electuary every part of which contains a hidden mystery. It is a means of love, communication and remembrance of the Lord. It is the best means of attaining perfection, spiritual ascension and God’s Nearness. According to traditions, the prayer is called ‘a believer’s heavenly jouney protecting from indecencies.’ It is such a pure sparkling stream of spirituality that whoever enters into it five times a day will purify his soul from all sorts of pollution and contamination. It is the greatest trust of Almighty God and the criterion of acceptance of all other deeds. It is a mysterious alive heavenly formula possessing spirit, which stands for heart presence during prayers, paying attention to Almighty God and being humble in front of Him.
The invocations, recitals of Qur’anic verses, genuflection, prostration, witnessing and salutations constitute the face and body of the prayer while heart presence and attention to the Creator form its spirit. Since a body without a soul is dead lacking any characteristic, a prayer offered without heart presence does not help ascend towards higher spiritual positions although it meets the rules of acceptable prayers. In principle, the greatest objective behind the establishment of prayer is described as invocation, recitals and engaging in God’s Remembrance. Almighty God says:
وَأَقِمْ الصَّلَاةَ لِذِكْرِي.
“Offer prayer for My remembrance. 20:14”
The Friday Prayer is described as invocation in the Holy Qur’an:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِي لِلصَّلَاةِ مِنْ يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ.
“O ye who believe! When the call is heard for the prayer of the day of congregation, haste unto remembrance of Allah. 57:9”
The criteria for the acceptance of prayer is heart presence, and whatever amount of heart presence it may contain, the prayer will be accepted accordingly. Therefore, traditions have emphasized a lot on the importance of heart presence in prayers. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
إنَّ مِن الصَّلاةِ لَما يُقْبَلُ نِصفُها وَثُلُثُها وَرُبُعُها وَخُمسُها إلى العُشْرِ، وإنَّ مِنها لَما يُلَفُّ كَما يُلَفُّ الثَّوبُ الخَلِقُ فَيُضْرَبُ بِها وَجْهَ صاحِبِها. وإنَّما لكَ مِن صَلاتِكَ ما أقْبَلتَ عَليْهِ بِقَلبِكَ.
“Sometimes, only half, one‑third, one‑fourth, one‑fifth or even one‑tenth of a prayer will be accepted. Some prayers are wrapped just like an old cloth and pounded upon the offerer’s head. As a matter of fact, only are the portions of a prayer in which a heart is present accepted.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 260)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
إذَا قامَ العَبدُ إلَى الصَّلاةِ أقبَلَ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ عَلَيهِ بَوَجهِهِ فَلا يَزالُ مُقبِلاً عَلَيهِ حَتّى يَلتَفِتَ ثَلاتَ مَرّاتٍ. فإذا التَفَتَ أعْرضَ عَنْهُ.
“Once a servant stands for prayer, Almighty God pays attention to him incessantly until he (the servant) turns three times. If he does, Almighty God turns away from him.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 241)
Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) says:
لا يَقومَنَّ أحَدُكُم فِي الصَّلاةِ مُتَكاسِلاً وَلا ناعِساً وَلا يُفَكِّرَنَّ في نَفْسِهِ فإنّهُ بَينَ يَدَي رَبِّهِ، وإنَّما لِلعَبْدِ مِن صَلاتِهِ ما أقْبَلَ عَلَيهِ مِنها بقَلْبِهِ.
“Do not offer prayer in the state of drowsiness or napping. While offering prayer, do not think about yourself, because you are standing in the presence of Almighty God. Indeed, only will that portions of a prayer in which a servant’s heart is present be acceptable.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 239)
The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
أيُّما عَبدٍ الْتَفَتَ فِي صَلاتِهِ قالَ اللهُ: ”يا عَبْدِي، إلَى مَن تَقْصِدُ وَتَطْلُبُ؟ أرَبّاً غَيْري تُريدُ وَرَقِيباً سِوايَ تَطْلُبُ أو جَواداً خَلايَ تَبْغِي؟ وأنا أكْرَمُ الأكْرَمِينَ وَأجْوَدُ الأجْوَدينَ وأفْضَلُ المُعْطِينَ. أُثِيبُكَ ثَواباً لا يُحْصَى قَدَرُهُ. أقْبِلْ عَلَيَّ فَإنّي عَلَيكَ مُقبِلٌ وَمَلائِكَتِي عَلَيكَ مُقْبِلُونَ.“ فإنْ أقْبَلَ زالَ عَنهُ إثْمُ ما كانَ مِنهُ. فإنِ الْتَفَتَ ثانِيَةً أعادَ اللهُ لهُ مَقالَتَهُ، وإنْ أقْبَلَ عَلى صَلاتِهِ غَفَرَ اللهُ لَهُ وَتَجاوَزَ عَنهُ ما كانَ مِنهُ. فَإن التَفَتَ ثالِثَةً أعادَ اللهُ لَهُ مَقالَتَهُ، وإنْ أقْبَلَ عَلى صَلاتِهِ غَفَرَ اللهُ لَهُ ما تَقَدَّمَ مِن ذَنبِهِ، فإن الْتَفَتَ رابِعَةً أعْرَضَ اللهُ عَنهُ وَأعْرَضَتِ المَلائِكَةُ عَنهُ وَيَقولُ: ”وَلَّيْتُكَ عَبدِي إلَى ما تَوَلَّيْتَ.“
“If a servant (of God), while standing in prayer, pays attention to other than Him, Almighty God will say, ‘O servant! Which way are you turning your face? Who is the one you are looking for? Do you seek a god and protector other than Me? Are you looking for a benevolent one other than Me? I am always the Most Merciful of the merciful ones, the Most Compassionate of the compassionate ones and the ever best Bestower. I will bestow upon you such an innumerable reward. Pay attention to Me because My angels and I are paying attention to you.’ If the performer of the prayer pays attention to Almighty God, his past sins will be overlooked; but if he again pays attention to other than God, the same previous speech will be addressed to him. If he turns his attention to the prayer, his sins will be pardoned and their effects nullified. If, for the third time, he deviates his attentionfrom the prayer, Almighty God will repeat the same previous speech. If he pays attention to the prayer, again his sins will be pardoned; but if he deviates his attention away from the prayer for the fourth time, Almighty God and the angels will turn their faces away from the prayer and Almighty God will say to him, ‘Now, I have assigned you to the guardianship of him whom is liked by you.’” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 244)
The value of a prayer depends directly upon heart presence and attention paid to Almighty God, which is effective in attaining inner purification and God’s Nearness. It was not without reason that all the Prophets and the Infallible Imams (a.s) as well as God’s favorite saints paid so much attention to prayer. `A’ishah narrated that she once was talking to the Holy Prophet (a.s) when the time of a prayer commenced. He suddenly became indifferent as if he had never known her and she had never known him. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84. p. 258)
It is also narrated that during prayers, the color of the Holy Prophet’s face changed completely, and a bubbling sound similar to the noises coming out from a boiling pot was heard coming out from his chest. When he stood for prayer, he was motionless like a piece of cloth fallen upon the ground. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 248)
About Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s), it has been written that at the time of prayer, his body used to tremble and the color of his face changed. They asked him the reason behind his agitation and fear and he replied, ‘The time has arrived for returning of trust, which was offered to earth and heavens but they declined to assume this responsibility; but man accepted this great trust. I am afraid whether I will be able to undertake this heavy responsibility of returning this trust or not.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 248)
About Lady Fa§imah al-Zahra’ (a.s), it has been narrated that her breathes would be countable whenever she stood from prayer. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 258)
About Imam al‑Hasan (a.s), it has been narrated that his body trembled during prayers. When he remembered Paradise and Hell, he became so restless and agitated as if he had been bitten by a snake. He requested Paradise from Almighty God and sought His shelter from Hell. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 258)
About Imam al‑Sajjad (a.s), it has been narrated that when he stood for prayer, the color of his face became pale with fear, and like a humble slave, he used to stand before his Master with trembled organs. He considered every prayer and the sealing as though there will never be any other one. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 250)
About Imam al‑Baqir and Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s), it is narrated that at the time of prayer, their faces used to turn pale and red with fear of Almighty God. During their prayers, they conversed with Almighty God as though they are actually seeing him. (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 248)
It has been narrated that Imam al-Sajjad (a.s) was once in the middle of a prayer when his clock rolled down from his shoulder. He remained unconscious about it. When he finished his prayer, one of his companions asked him about that case. The Imam (a.s) answered, “Do you know before Whom I am standing? Such awareness prevented me from paying attention to my clock. Be it known to you that a servant’s prayer is accepted only to the extent he pays attention to Almighty God during it.” The man said, “This means that we all are doomed.” “No,” answered the Imam (a.s), “If you offer the supererogatory prayers (nafilah), Almighty God will regard your obligatory prayers as completed.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 265)
Degrees of Heart presence
Heart presence consists of various ranks through which a wayfarer has to go gradually so as to ascend towards the higher spiritual positions of God’s Nearness and Witnessing. It is a lengthy way containing various positions whose introduction and explanation cannot be presented perfectly by a deprived servant looking from a distance and burning in regret, like I am. Yet, some of these stages will be explained hereinafter in brief:
The first stage is the state in which the performer of a prayer, even partially, pays brief attention to the fact that he is standing before Almighty God and speaks with Him. However, at this stage, he does not pay attention to the meanings of words and does not understand the details of his conversation.
The second stage of heart presence is the state in which the performer of a prayer, apart from his being aware of the fact that he is standing before Almighty God and is communicating with Him, pays attention to the meanings of words and invocation and knows exactly what he is saying to Almighty God. While announcing the worlds, he is simultaneously making his heart understand its meaning like a mother teaching her child how to pronounce a sentence and explaining its meanings.
The third stage of heart presence is the state in which the performer of a prayer, in addition to being aware of the earlier stages, comprehends very well the realities of glorification, adoration, praise, sanctification, monotheism and meanings of other invocations. Further, his understanding of the above is based upon logical arguments paying attention to them during prayer and understanding very well as to what he says, what he wants and to whom he speaks.
The fourth stage of heart presence is the state in which the performer of a prayer, in addition to being aware of the early stages, has influence upon his inner essence as well as the learning and meanings of invocations achieving the state of certainty and faith. In that case, the tongue follows the heart and since the heart believes in those realities, it pursues the tongue to undertake the recital of invocations.
The fifth stage of heart presence is the state in which the performer of a prayer, in addition to being aware of the early stages, achieves the most sublime spiritual positions of revelation, intuition and countenance. Through his esoteric eyes, he witnesses the Sacred Names and Attributes of Almighty God and does not see anything except Him neglecting himself as well as his actions, deeds and invocations. He speaks with Almighty God but is unconscious of the speaker and speech. He has given up his own existence and become fascinated after witnessing the beauty of Lord’s Essence. Even at this stage, there are ranks varying in distinction relative to the status of the wayfarers. This stage is like an ocean of infinite depth and for one like me, it is better not to enter in it and to leave its description for those who deserve it:
اَللّهُمّ ارْزُقْنا حَلاوَةَ ذِكْرِكَ وَمُشاهَدَةَ جَمالِكَ.
“O God! Please bestow upon us the sweetness of your invocations and the witnessing of your beauty.”
Important Factors for Attaining Heart presence
Inasmuch as heart presence is important and worthwhile, its attainment is extremely difficult. No sooner a person starts his prayer, Satan suddenly whispers in his heart pulling him from one side to another and continuously engaging him into all sorts of thoughts and memories. During prayers, one engages himself in accounting, planning, reviewing past and future problems and solving academic problems and very often he recollects forgotten topics; and when he returns to himself, he discovers that the prayer is over. Even if sometimes he pays attention to the prayer, he deviates immediately. This is indeed sorrowful! What should we do to dominate over this rebellious and playful self? How should we keep these scattered thoughts away from us during the prayer and keep our attention exclusively to remember Almighty God? Those who have travelled in this path and had the ability to receive Divine favors can better guide us. However, we can provide some advices leading to heart presence in prayers:
To offer obligatory or recommended prayer, it is better to select an isolated place free from noise. The place of a prayer should be free from pictures or any other attractive objects and should not be public; rather a secluded corner inside one’s house is suggested. While offering prayers, one should look at the place of prostration or close his eyes, and among these two, whichever he thinks is more useful for heart presence should be practiced.
It is advisable to offer prayer in a smaller room near the wall so that the view is restricted. While offering congregational prayers, one should look at the place of prostration and listen attentively to the recital of the Qur’anic verses, if the imam (leader) is reciting loudly.
Removal of Obstacles
Before the prayer, all obstacles in attaining heart presence must be removed and only then one should engage himself into prayer. If the performer of a prayer needs to go to toilet, he must relieve himself first and after performing required ablutions, he should engage himself in prayer. If he is not comfortable because of severe hunger or thrust, he must satisfy his hunger and thirst and then offer his prayers.
if he lacks the mood because of overeating, he should wait a while until he feels ready for prayer. Similarly, if he does not have the mood to offer prayer because of being extremely tired or feeling sleeplessness, he should first rest and sleep and then offer his prayer. If he is busy investigating something or is disturbed and agitated because of a tragic occurrence, he should try within the bounds of possibilities to eliminate the causes of concern before prayer.
One of the greatest obstacles is intense attachment to worldly allurements such as wealth and property, power and position and woman and children. Severe attraction to these things causes presence in prayers to turn to these things deviating from Almighty God. Therefore one must seriously endeavor to cut off these attractions so that heart presence and attention to Almighty God be easier.
Strengthening of Faith
Man’s attention to Almighty God depends relatively on his knowledge and enlightenment. If faith has reached the degree of certainty, he will completely comprehend God’s Majesty, Power, Presence, Dominion and Knowledge and will naturally show humility before Him. Besides, there would be no room left for negligence and forgetfulnus. One who sees God everywhere as Overseer regards himself continuously before His presence, and while standing in prayer—a place of talking with Him, he will never be negligent about His remembrance. If one has to speak before a powerful king, he will naturally control all his senses and know exactly what to do and what to say. So, if one recognizes Almighty God with Splendor and Majesty, he will never be negligent of Him during prayer. Therefore, man should endeavor for strengthening his faith and attaining perfect enlightenment so that he may achieve maximum heart presence during his prayer. The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
اعبدِ اللهَ كأنّكَ تَراهُ، فإنْ كُنتَ لا تَراهُ فإنّهُ يَراكَ.
“Worship Almighty God as if you can actually see Him, and if you cannot see Him, He can see you.” (Nahj al-Fa¥ahah, pp. 65)
Aban ibn Taghlib narrated that he said to Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) that he saw `Ali ibn al-Husayn (Imam al-Sajjad) have his colors changed during prayers. Imam al-Sadiq (a.s) answered:
وَاللهِ، إنّ عَلِيَّ بنَ الحُسَينِ كانَ يَعرِفُ الّذِي يَقومُ بَينَ يَدَيهِ.
“By God, `Ali ibn al-Husayn recognized completely the One before Whom he was standing.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 236)
Remembrance of Death
Remembrance of death is definitely useful in achieving heart presence. To think about death and realize that neither timings nor are circumstances of death’s arrival known, one will not offer prayer with negligence. It is recommended that a performer of a prayer thinks about death and imagine that the moment of death has arrived. In other words, before reading for a prayer, one must iamgine that the Angel of Death has already arrived for grasping his soul and it is only a limited time, say, an hour or few minutes have been left for him after which the Register of his deeds will be closed forever and he will be transferred to the Eternal World where his deeds will be scrutinized and the result will be either eternal prosperity and happy living near God’s favorite saints or adversity, cruelty, punishment and torture inside Hellfire. By imagining so, one may concentrate, witness himself standing in front of Almighty God and offer his prayer with more humility as his farewell prayer. Before beginning a prayer, one should create such conditions and then prolong it during the entire prayer. Imam Al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
إذَا صَلَّيْتَ صَلاةَ فَريضَةٍ فَصَلِّها صَلاةَ مُودِّعٍ يَخافُ أنْ لا يَعودَ إلَيها أبَداً. ثُمّ اصْرِفْ بِبَصَرِكَ إلَى مَوْضِعِ سُجُودِكَ، فَلَو تَعْلَمُ مَن عَنْ يَمِينِكَ وَشِمالِكَ لأحْسَنْتَ صَلاتَكَ، واعْلَمْ أنَّكَ بَينَ يَدَيْ مَن يَراكَ وَلا تَراهُ.
“When you want to offer an obligatory prayer, behave as if you are bidding farewell and expecting that you will never be given any opportunity to offer another one. While offering the prayer, look at the place of prosiration. If you realize Who is standing to your right and left, you will offer it as completely as possible. Be it known to you that you are standing before Him Who can see you while you cannot see Him.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 84, pp. 233)
After removing all obstacles around him, ready yourself by retiring into a suitable isolated place. Before standing, remind yourself of the Majesty and Infinite power of Almighty God as well as your weakness and incompetence. Realize that you are standing before the Lord and speaking to Him. Imagine and manifest death, accounting of deeds, Paradise and Hell with the eyes of your heart. Assign a higher probability that death may come very soon and even this very prayer can be the last. Rethink of these reflections until the self becomes completely tamed. Recite the call for prayer (azan) and iqamah respectively before reciting the following supplication with paying much attention to its meaning:
اَللّهُمّ إلَيكَ تَوَجَّهْتُ وَمَرضاتَكَ طَلَبْتُ وَثَوابَكَ ابْتَغَيْتُ وَبِكَ آمَنْتُ وَعَلَيكَ تَوَكَّلْتُ. اَللّهُمّ صَلّ عَلى مُحَمَّدٍ وَآلِ مُحَمَّدٍ وَافْتَحْ مَسامِعَ قَلبِي لِذِكْرِكَ وَثَبِّتْنِي عَلى دِينِكَ وَدِينِ نَبِيِّكَ وَلا تُزِغْ قَلْبِي بَعْدَ إذْ هَدَيْتَنِي وَهَبْ لِي مِن لَدُنْكَ رَحْمَةً إنّكَ أنْتَ الوَهّابُ.
“O God! I seek Your refuge; desire whatever pleases You; aspire to receive Your reward; have faith in You and trust and rely upon You. O God! Send salutations upon Muhammad and his Holy progeny, open my heart’s esoteric ears to Your invocation, make me steadfast upon Your religion and the religion of Your Prophet, do not make my heart deviate after being blessed with Your guidance and bestow upon me Your favors and blessings. Verily, You are the All-benevolent.”
The recite the following prayer:
يا مُحْسِنُ، قَد أتاكَ المُسِيءُ؛ يا مُحْسِنُ، أحْسِنْ إلَيَّ.
“O Beneficent, here is the sinner coming to You. O Beneficent, treat me with goodness.”
If you feel having proper attention and humility, you should then say the Takbirat al-Ihram by proclaiming that God is the Most Great (Allahu-Akbar) and enter into your prayer. But if you feel that you are not yet ready and you feel no change in your mood, seek Almighty God’s refuge agaisnt Satanic whispers (saying A`udhu bi’llahi min al-shay§an al-rajim) and repeat the earlier program until you are ready.
At this moment and with due attention and heart presence, say the Takbirat al-Ihram with attention to its meanings and begin the prayer. However, you must pay attention as to whom you are talking and what you are saying. Be careful that tongue and heart coordinate each other and do not lie. Ponder over the meaning of Allahu-Akbar; God is too greater to be described. Hence, think of this meaning and think whether you realy believe it or not. Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
إذَا اسْتَقْبَلْتَ القِبلَةَ فانْسَ الدُّنْيا وَما فِيها وَالخَلْقَ وَما هُم فيهِ وَفَرِّغْ قَلبَكَ مِن كُلِّ شاغِلٍ يَشغَلُكَ عَنِ اللهِ تَعالى وَعَايِنْ بِسِرِّكَ عَظَمَةَ اللهِ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَاذْكُرْ وُقُوفَكَ بَينَ يَدَيهِ. قالَ اللهُ: ﴿هُنَالِكَ تَبْلُو كُلُّ نَفْسٍ مَا أَسْلَفَتْ وَرُدُّوا إِلَى اللَّهِ مَوْلَاهُمْ الْحَقِّ ﴾ وَقِفْ عَلى قَدَمِ الخَوفِ وَالرّجاءِ. فإذا كَبَّرْتَ فاسْتَصْغِرْ ما بَيْنَ السَّماواتِ العُلَى وَالثَّرى دونَ كِبْرِيائِهِ فإنَّ اللهَ تَعالَى إذا اطَّلَعَ عَلى قَلْبِ العَبْدِ وَهُوَ يُكَبِّرُ وَفِي قَلْبِه عارِضٌ عَنْ حَقِيقَةِ تَكبِيرِهِ قالَ: يا كَذّابُ، أتَخْدَعُنِي؟ وَعِزَّتِي وَجَلالِي لأحْرِمَنَّكَ حَلاوَةَ ذِكْرِي وَلأحْجِبَنَّكَ عَن قُربِي وَالمَسَرَّةَ بِمُناجَاتِي.
“When you stand facing Holy Mecca (Qiblah) for performing a prayer, forget the world and whatever it contains and people and whatever therein; and make your heart free from everything which prevents you from God’s Remembrance and, with esoteric eyes, witness God’s Majesty and Splendor. Recollect your stoppage before Him on the Day of Resurrection. Almighty God says: ‘There doth every soul experience that which it did aforetime, and they are returned unto Allah, their rightful Lord.’ During prayer, be in a state of fear and hope. After making your proper intention and saying Takbirat al-Ihram, consider whatever the earth and sky contains as small and insignificant, because when the performer of a prayer says Allahu-Akbar, Almighty God looks in his heart; if he does not regard its reality, He will say to him, ‘O liar! Do you want to deceit me? I swear by My Splendor and Majesty that I will deprive you of My invocations, pleasure and enjoyment of having private communications with Me.’” (Bihar al-Anwar, v.ol. 84, pp. 230)
Of course, preparation and getting ready before the prayer during making intention and Takbirat al-Ihram are extremely effective in achieving heart presence. Yet, what is more important is the continuation of this state throughout the prayer. If a slight negligence is shown, self will immediately start action of flying from one side to another breaking heart presence. Therefore, one must watch himself carefully all along the prayer and tightly close his heart’s entrance in the face of anyone other than God preventing entries of scattered thoughts and memories. One should ponder upon his in God’s presence, offer prayer as if he is actually talking with, bowing down and prostrating himself before Almighty God. While reciting Qur’anic verses and invocations, one must pay attention to their meanings, realize what he says and to whom he speaks and maintain this condition until the prayer is over. It is a difficult task but with efforts, endeavors and seriousness, it becomes easier. Almighty God promises in the Holy Qur’an that those who strive in His cause will be certainly guide them to His path.
One who does not succeed in the first attempt should repeat with more determination and seriousness until domination over self is attained. The heart should be cleansed thoroughly from scattered thoughts and should be motivated to pay attention to Almighty God. If such thing is not possible within one day, few weeks and few months, one should not be disappointed because after all, such a thing is possible. Many distinguished personalities were able to achieve absolute heart presence from the beginning until the end of prayer, and during prayer, they did not pay any attention to other than God. We should not be disappointed to attain such distinguished position and if achieving absolute perfection is not possible, we must try to attain at least whatever is attainable within the bounds of possibilities and consider even this much as a great bounty.
As previously mentieond, Prayer is the best means of spiritual migration, invocation and God’s Nearness. It has not been limited to a fixed time; rather one may use it at any time, any where and under all circumstances. Generally, the prayer can be classified into two categories—mandatory and supererogatory. Further, the mandatory prayers are six; (1) Daily Prayers, (2) Signs Prayer—Salat al-Ayat, (3) Deceased Prayer—Salat al-Mayyit, (4) Circumambulation Prayer during the Hajj—Salat al-±awaff, (5) Vow Prayer—Salat al-Nadhr and (6) Settled Prayers—Salat al-Qada’.
Daily prayers are obligatory upon all Muslims attaining puberty, yet other obligatory prayers are so under certain circumstances. A person who desires to achieve salvation and perfection must, as a first step, perform all the obligatory acts strictly in their prescribed manner; and to achieve the best means of God’s favor, they must be performed with heart presence. Quitting the obligatory acts and indulging into the recommended will never achieve God’s favor. It is a big mistake to think that by quitting the obligatory precepts and undertaking the recommended deeds, invocations and incantations, one may complete his journey towards perfection and attaining higher spiritual positions. Yet, after performing obligatory acts, one may seek God’s nearness by means of supererogatory prayers and other recommended deeds for attaining sublime spiritual positions.
Supererogatory prayers can be divided into two categories—Daily Supererogatory Prayers (Nawafil) and other recommended prayers. The Daily Supererogatory Prayers comprise thirty-four units (Rak`ah) divided as follows:
1. The ²uhr Supererogatory Prayer: it is of eight units performed before the ²uhr Obligatory Prayer in four parts each comprising two units of prayer.
2. The `A¥r Supererogatory Prayer: It is of eight units performed before the `A¥r Obligatory Prayer in four parts each comprising two units of prayer.
3. The Maghrib Supererogatory Prayer: It is of four units performed after the Maghrib Obligatory Prayer in two parts each comprising two units of prayer.
4. The `Isha’ Supererogatory Prayer: It is of two units performed in sitting position after the `Isha’ Obligatory Prayer.
5. The Fajr Supererogatory Prayer: It is of two units performed before the Fajr Obligatory Prayer.
6. The Night Prayer (salat al-Layl): It is of eleven units performed after midnight.
Books of traditions have describe the importance, effects and rewards of the daily supererogatory prayers and have been introduced as complimentary to the obligatory prayers in addition to other recommended prayers that are performed on certain occasions. There is however a number of books dedicated to mentioning such prayers that contribute in the journey towards the spiritual journey and the attainment of self-perfection. At any rate, prayer is recommended at any time, any place and under all circumstances; and a wayfarer can take its advantage. The path of taking advantage from this means remains always open. Man can benefit from this great blessing and establish a quick communication with Almighty God at any time, place and condition. Amir al-Mu’minin Imam `Ali (a.s) said:
صَلاةُ النَّوافِلِ قُربانُ كُلِّ مُؤمِنٍ.
“Supererogatory Prayers are all the believer’s offering to Almighty God.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 36)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
وإنَّما أُمِرْنا بِالنَّوافِلِ لَيَتُمَّ لَهُم بِها ما نَقَصوا مِن الفَريضَةِ.
“We are assigned to offer supererogatory prayers so that the shortcomings of the obligatory prayers will be perfected.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 28)
The Holy Prophet (a.s) narrated that Almighty God says:
ما تحبّب إليَّ عبدي بشيءٍ أحبّ أليَّ ممّا افترضته عليه، وإنّه لَيتحبّب إليَّ بالنافلة حتّى أُحبّه، فإذا أحببته كنتُ سَمعَه الّذي يسمع به وبَصَره الّذي يبصر به ولِسانه الّذي ينطق به ويدَه التي أعطيتُه بها، وما تردّدتُ في شيءٍ أنا فاعِلُه كَتردُّدي في موت المؤمن، يكره الموت وأنا أكره مساءته.
“There is nothing better than the performance of obligatory deeds for My servants to get to like Me. However by performing recommended prayers, he gets inclined to Me and I will love him. If I love him, I will be his ears to hear with, his eyes to see with, his tongue to speak with, and his hands to give charity with. I will then not hesitate to do what I must do, like hesitation in the death of a believer. He dislikes death, and I am unhappy about his unhappiness.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 31)
Among various recommended prayers, the Night Prayer carries a special distinction as the Holy Qur’an and traditions have made lots of emphasis and recommendations for its performance.
Almighty God says to the Holy Prophet (a.s).
وَمِنْ اللَّيْلِ فَتَهَجَّدْ بِهِ نَافِلَةً لَكَ عَسَى أَنْ يَبْعَثَكَ رَبُّكَ مَقَامًا مَحْمُودًا.
“And some part of the night awake for it, a largess for thee. It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate. 17:79”
Praise His Servents, Almighty God says:
وَالَّذِينَ يَبِيتُونَ لِرَبِّهِمْ سُجَّدًا وَقِيَامًا.
“And who spend the night before their Lord, prostrate and standing. 25:64”
تَتَجَافَى جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنْ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفًا وَطَمَعًا وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ. فَلَا تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَا أُخْفِيَ لَهُمْ مِنْ قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَاءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ.
“Who forsake their beds to cry unto their Lord in fear and hope, and spend of that We have bestowed on them. No soul knoweth what is kept hid for them of joy, as a reward for what they used to do. 32:16‑17”
The Holy Prophet (a.s) said:
إنّ الله جلّ جلاله أوحى إلى الدنيا: أتعبي مَن خَدمَك واخدمي من رفضك، وإنّ العبد إذا تخلّى بسيّده في جوف الليل المُظلِم وناجاه؛ أثبت الله النور في قلبه، فإذا قال: يا ربّ! ناداه الجليل جلّ جلاله: لبيّك عبدي، سلني أُعطك وتوكّل عليَّ أكفّك، ثمّ يقول جلّ جلاله للملائكة: ملائكتي! انظروا إلى عبدي قد تخلّى بي في جوف هذا الليل المظلم، والبَطّالون لاهون والغافلون ينامون، اشهدوا أنّي قد غفرتُ له.
God, Exalted is His Majesty, revealed to the world: Put whoever serves you in hardship; serve whoever abandons you. Whenever one sits in the privacy of the night and prays to and calls on his Master, God will illuminate his heart. Whenever he says: “O' Lord!” God whose Majesty is Exalted will respond to him and say: “O My servant! I heard you. Ask Me for whatever you want. I will grant it to you. Rely on Me, and I will suffice you.” Then the One whose Majesty is exalted tells the angels: “O My angels! Notice My servant who is having a private time with Me in the darkness of this night, while the rogues are having fun, and the ignorant people are asleep. Witness that I have forgiven him.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 137)
أشْرافُ أُمَّتِي حَمَلَةُ القُرآنِ وَأصْحابُ اللّيلِ.
“The most honorable ones of of my nation are the carriers of the Holy Qur’an and the worshippers at night.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 138)
ما زَالَ جِبرَئِيلُ يُوصِينِي بِقِيامِ اللّيلِ حَتّى ظَنَنتُ أنَّ خِيارَ أمَّتِي لَن يَناموا.
“Archangel Gabriel has made so much recommendation about night prayer to me that I assumed the righteous ones of my nation will not sleep.” (Bihar al Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 139)
رَكعَتانِ فِي جَوفِ اللّيلِ أحَبُّ إلَيَّ مِن الدُّنيا وَما فِيها.
“A two-unit prayer in the middle of night is more beloved to me than the world and whatsoever it may contain.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 148)
صَلاةُ اللّيلِ مَرضاةَ الرَّبِّ، وَحُبُّ المَلائِكَةِ، وَسُنَّةُ الأنْبِياءِ، وَنورُ المَعْرِفَةِ، وأصْلُ الإيمانِ، وَرَاحَةُ الأبْدانِ، وَكَراهِيَةُ الشَّيطانِ، وَسِلاحٌ عَلى الأعْداءِ، وَإجابَةٌ لِلدُّعاءِ، وَقَبولُ الأعْمالِ، وَبَرَكَةٌ فِي الرّزْقِ، وَشَفِيعٌ بَينَ صاحِبِها وَبَينَ مَلَكِ المَوتِ، وَسِراجٌ فِي قَبْرِه، وَفِراشٌ مِن تَحْتِ جَنْبِه، وَجَوابٌ مَع مُنْكَرٍ وَنَكِير، ومُؤنِسٌ وَزائِرٌ فِي قَبْرِه إلى يَومِ القِيامَةِ؛ فإذا كانَ يَومُ القِيامَةِ كانَتِ الصَّلاةُ ظِلاً فَوقَهُ، وَتاجاً عَلى رأسِهِ، وَلِباساً عَلى بَدَنِهِ، وَنوراً يَسْعى بَينَ يَدَيهِ، وَستْراً بَينَهُ وَبَينَ النّارِ، وَحُجَّةٌ لِلمُؤمِنِ بَينَ يَدَيِ اللهِ تَعالى، وَثقْلاً فِي المِيزانِ، وَجَوازاً عَلى الصِّراطِ، وَمِفتاحاً لِلجَنَّةِ، لأنَّ الصَّلاةَ تَكْبيرٌ وَتَحمِيدٌ وَتَسبِيحٌ وَتَمجِيدٌ وَتَقدِيسٌ وَتَعظِيمٌ وَقِراءَةٌ وَدُعاءٌ وإنَّ أفْضَلَ الأعمالِ كُلِّها الصَّلاةُ لِوَقْتِها.
“The Night Prayer is a means of pleasing Almighty God, love of of His angels, norm of the Prophets, the light of knowledge, the origin of faith, the rest of bodies, the hatred of Satan, the weapon against the enemies, the responding to the prayers, the acceptance of the deeds, the blessing in the sustenance, the interceder to the Angel of Deat, the torch in the grave, the bed under the side, the anser to Munkar and Nakir (the two angels interrogating in the grave) and the friend and visitor in the grave up to the Resurrection Day when the prayer will form a shadow on the head of the performer, a crown of his head, a dress covering his body, a light forwarding before him, a screen preventing from Hellfire, an acquital before Almighty God, a heaviness in the Scale (of deeds), a permission to pass the Path and a key to enter Paradise. This is because prayer is proclamation of God’s greatness, praise, glorification, adoration, sanctification, veneration, recital and supplication. The best of deeds is certainly the prayer performed in its best time.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 161)
Imam al‑Sadiq (a.s) said:
صَلاةُ اللّيلِ تُحسِنُ الوَجْهَ وَتُحسِنُ الخُلُقَ وَتُطَيِّبُ الرّيحَ وَتَدُرُّ الرّزْقَ وَتَقْضِي الدّينَ وَتَذهَبُ بِالهَمِّ وَتَجلُو البَصَرَ.
“The Night Prayer beautifies the face, betters the conducts, perfumes the body smell, increases the sustenance, helps settling of the debts, removes griefs and improves the sight.” (Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 87, pp. 153)
The Holy Prophet and the Infallible Imams (a.s) have shown special interests and paid attention to Night Prayer. Only through their continuous engagements into Night Prayer, invocations and supplications at dawn could God’s favorite saints and mystics attain exalted spiritual positions.
It is very pleasing to wake up from sleep, leave the soft and comfortable bed, make ablutions and stand up before the Lord engaging oneself in communications with Him and ascending towards the Upper Heavens to join the angels of the Celestial Kingdom in praising, worshipping and adoring Almighty God in the darkness of night while others are busy in deep sleep. At this moment, the heart becomes the center of the Divine Illumination and with a heart fully saturated with God’s desire, one ascends towards the most sublime spiritual position of God’s Nearness.
Details of the Night Prayer
The Night Prayer consists of eleven units of prayer; the first eight ones are offered each two alone with Taslim to be recited at the end of each two with the intention of the Night Prayer. After finishing these eight, the Prayer of Shaf` consisting of two units of prayer only is performed. The one-unit Prayer of Witr comes next with definite instructions.
The time of the Night Prayer begins after midnight; yet, it is recommended to perform it as near as possible to dawn. Whenever you are awakened for night prayer, relieve yourself from the call of nature, clean your teeth, make ablutions and perfume. In the first Rak`ah, the Surah of al-Fatihah (the Opening) must be recited:
بِِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ. الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ. مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ. إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِينُ. اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ. صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ.
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds, The Beneficent, the Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment, Thee (alone) we worship; Thee (alone) we ask for help, Show us the straight path, The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; Not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray.1:1‑7”
After that, you may may recite any other Surah you like yet Surah of Tawhid (112) is preferable:
بِِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ. اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ. لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ. وَلَمْ يَكُنْ لَهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ.
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. 112:1‑4”
In the second Rak`ah of each prayer, Qunut (Supplication in prayer by raising the hands to the chest or the face) is optional, yet recommended. It is also sufficient to say thrice ‘Subhanallah’ (Glory be to God).
Having finished the first eight units of the Night Prayer as described above, make intention to offer the two-Rak`ah prayer of Shaf`. In the first Rak`ah and after reciting Surah of al-Fatihah, recite Surah of al-Nas (114):
بِِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ. مَلِكِ النَّاسِ. إِلَهِ النَّاسِ. مِنْ شَرِّ الْوَسْوَاسِ الْخَنَّاسِ. الَّذِي يُوَسْوِسُ فِي صُدُورِ النَّاسِ. مِنْ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ.
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of mankind, The King of mankind, The god of mankind, From the evil of the sneaking whisperer, Who whispereth in the hearts of mankind, Of the jinn and of mankind. 114:1‑6”
In the second Rak`h and after reciting Surah of al-fatihah, recite Surah of al-Falaq (113):
بِِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ. قُلْ أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ الْفَلَقِ. مِنْ شَرِّ مَا خَلَقَ. وَمِنْ شَرِّ غَاسِقٍ إِذَا وَقَبَ. وَمِنْ شَرِّ النَّفَّاثَاتِ فِي الْعُقَدِ. وَمِنْ شَرِّ حَاسِدٍ إِذَا حَسَدَ.
“In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Daybreak. From the evil of that which He created; From the evil of the darkness when it is intense, And from the evil of malignant witchcraft, And from the evil of the envier when he envieth. 113.1‑5”
Having finished the Prayer of Shaf`, make intention to offer the one-Rak`ah Prayer of Witr. In the first Rak`ah, recite Surah of al-Fatihah and Surah of al-Tawhid one time or three times along with Surah of al-Falaq and Surah of al-Nas each one time. Afterwards, raise your hands upward for Qunut and say any supplication you like or the following:
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِي الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِي الْآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ.
“Our Lord! Give unto us in the world that which is good and in the Hereafter that which is good, and guard us from the doom of Fire. 2:201”
You may also recite the following Du`a’ (supplication):
اَللّهُمَّ كُنْ لِوَلِيّكَ الحُجَّةِ بْنِ الحَسَنِ صَلَواتُكَ وَسَلامُكَ عَلَيهِ وَعَلى آبائِهِ فِي هذِهِ السّاعَةِ وَفِي كُلِّ سَاعَةٍ وَلِيّاً وَحافِظاً وَقائِداً وَناصِراً وَدَلِيلاً وَعَيناً حَتّى تُسْكِنَهُ أرْضَكَ طَوعاً وَتُمَتِّعَهُ فِيها طَويلاً بِرَحْمَتِكَ يا أرْحَمَ الرّاحِمِينَ.
“O God! Be the Protector, Guardian, Leader, Supporter, Guide and Watcher of Your Representative, son of al-Hasan, may Your blessings be upon him and his Infallible fathers, in this very hour and all time until You decide to make him dwell in Your land and live there for long. You are indeed the Most Merciful of all the merciful ones.
You may also recite the following:
رَبَّنَا أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وَانْصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ.
“Our Lord! Bestow on us endurance, make our foothold sure, and give us help against the disbelieving folk. 2:250”
Being in the state of Qunut, it is recommended to try to weep because of remembering the past sins and transgressions as well as Almighty God, the Day of Judgment and Hellfire. According to traditions, the supplications of one who prays for forty believers in the Night Prayer will be granted; therefore, it is recommended to ask God’s forgiveness for at least forty believers, including one’s parents, relatives, neighbors, colleagues, scholars, martyrs and the like by mentioning their names. It has been narrated that the Holy Prophet (a.s) used to seek God’s forgiveness seventy times by saying Astaghfiru’llaha rabbi wa atubu ilayh (I seek God’s forgiveness and I repent before Him). Therefore, having your left hand i in the state of Qunut, hold a rosary in your right hand and recite the above recital. It has been also narrated that the Holy Prophet (a.s) used to recite the following sentence seven times;
هَذا مَقامُ العائِذِ بِكَ مِن النّارِ.
“This is he who seeks Your protection against Hellfire.”
Imam al‑Sajjad (a.s) is reported to have sought seek God’s forgiveness three hundred times saying al-`Afw. Hence, keeping the left hand in the state of Qunut, trying to weep, feeling regretful for the past sins and holding a rosary in right hand, recite the above sentence three hundred times. Then, recite the following supplication one time:
رَبَّنا اغْفِرْ لِي وارْحَمْنِي وَتُبْ عَلَيَّ إنَّكَ أنْتَ التَّوّابُ الرَّحِيمُ.
“O Lord! Please forgive me, have mercy upon me and accept my repentance. Indeed, You are the Oft-returning and the Merciful.”
By these supplications, the Qunut of the Witr Prayer is accomplished. Then come the usual genuflection and prostration as well as the other pillars of ordinary prayers.
 Lady Fa§imah al-Zahra’, the daughter of and the dearest person to the Prophet, was born in Mecca on Friday, 20th of Jumada II five years after the Divine Mission of the Holy Prophet (AD 615). She was so loved by the Prophet that he called her ‘a part of me’. In AH 2/AD 624, she was married to Imam `Ali ibn Abi-±alib from whom she gave birth of three sons, Hasan, Husayn and Muhsin (who died stillborn) and two daughters, Zaynab and Ummu-Kulthum. She had to witness the usurpation of the caliphate from her husband as well as many other bitter catastrophes directly after the demise of her father. She died at the age of eighteen in al-Madinah on 14th of Jumada I, AH 11 (AD 623). On her final will, her burial place is unknown.
 About heart presence in prayers, many books have been written about the mysteries of prayer, such as Sirr al-`Asrar of Imam Khumayni.
 Such as the famous Mafatih al-Jinan of Shaykh `Abbas al-Qummi.
 For more details, the dear readers are advised to see Profundities of the Prayer by Ayatullah Sayyid `Ali Khamana’i, translated by S. H. Alamdar and published by Ansariyan Publications.