2:238 Guard over the prayers, and the middle prayer, and stand before God devoutly.
In the tongue of allusion to guard over the prayer is that, when the servant comes into the presence of the prayer, he comes with awe, and when he leaves, he leaves with reverence. As long as he is in the prayer, he is described by courtesy. He keeps his body in the outward service, his heart in the realities of union, and his secret core along with his spirit in the ease of whispered prayer. “The praying person is whispering with his Lord.”
Abū Bakr Shiblī said, “If I were given the choice to enter the prayer or to go into paradise, I would not choose that high paradise over the prayer. Even if paradise is joy and blessings, the prayer is secret whispering with the Patron of Blessings. That is the place of pleasure for water and clay, and this is the place of gazing for spirit and heart. That is roasted fowl in the garden of approval, and this is repose and ease [56:89] in the garden of the Beloved.”
Muṣṭafā gave no station the mark he gave to the prayer when he said, “‘The delight of my eyes was placed in the prayer.’ Amongst the caresses and beauties, the brightness of my eyes lies in being occupied with Him and whispering secretly with Him.”
There was a man called Abū ʿAlī Siyāh, who was unique in his era. Whenever anyone went to see him, he would say, “I’m a carefree man. I have no occupation. The brightness of my eyes lies in seeing a man of His road or talking about Him with someone.”
ʿAbdallāh Anṣārī, said, “O God, O lovingly kind, O helper! Exalted is he who has one breath with You! May I have a breath in which no one mixes, a breath that afterward has no veil. For me, that one breath is enough in the two worlds. O You who are before each day and separate from everyone! In this celebration, a thousand minstrels are not enough for me.”
Guarding is what keeps someone in the station of service and his heart in the station of veneration. Then the form of outwardness will be complete and the attribute of inwardness will be in place.
A man was the imam in the prayer. He wanted to straighten the rows and said, “Straighten!” He had not yet finished this word when he fell down unconscious. Afterward they asked him what he had received in that state. He said, “A call came to Me in my secret core: ‘Have you ever once been straight for Me?’”
The first pillar of the prayer is an intention, and the meaning of intention is the aim of the heart. When someone enters the prayer, there must be three things in three places in order for him to begin the prayer with a worthy attribute: allusion with the hands, expression with the tongue, and intention in the heart.
In the state of an intention, it is as if the servant is saying, “I am aiming for the threshold of the Patron and I have put this world behind.” Then if he does not put aside thoughts of this world and he fails to occupy his heart with the prayer, he will have been a liar in the first pillar.
When Ḥasan ibn ʿAlī reached the door of a mosque he would say, “O God, Your guest is at Your door, the asker from You is at Your door. O Beautiful-doer, the ugly-doer has come to You, and You have commanded the beautiful-doers among us to overlook the ugly-doer. So overlook my repulsiveness with Your beauty, O Generous One!”
Lifting up the hands in the prayer at the time of saying “God is greater” alludes to the servant’s constraint and poverty and his brokenness before the Presence of the Patron. It is as if he is saying, “I am drowning in the ocean of disobedient acts, so take my hand!” Lord God, I am a stranger in the land, I have fallen into the well of disobedience, I am drowning in the sea of tribulation. I have pain, but I do not know the remedy, or I know it, but I cannot drink it. There is no way to despair, but I do not have the gall to come forward.
It has been said that the first person to make the dawn prayer was Adam. When that dust-dwelling chief, that unprecedented marvel of power, that artifact of creativity, that unique fabric of the desire, came down from heaven to earth, it was the end of the day. As long as he saw the brightness of the day, he had a bit of ease, but when the sun was hidden, Adam’s heart became a quarry of sorrows.
Adam had never seen night and had not suffered darkness and sorrow. All of a sudden he saw the darkness that reaches the whole world, while he was a stranger, ill, and separate from his spouse. In that darkness sometimes he sighed, sometimes he looked at the moon, sometimes he whispered in prayer at the Threshold.
The origin of all strangers was Adam, the forerunner of all the grieving was Adam, the first of all the weepers was Adam. It was Adam who laid the foundation of friendship in the world and Adam who set down the custom of night vigils. Moaning from the pain of separation and weeping in the middle of the night was a tradition set down by Adam. In that night when he moaned and wept, sometimes he complained of lowliness, sometimes he shouted out, sometimes he remembered the Friend while weeping.
At last when the breeze of dawn began to breathe like a lover and the army of morning burst from its ambush and shouted against the darkness of night, Gabriel came with the good news: “O Adam! Morning has come, peace has come! Light has come, joy has come! Brightness has come, familiarity has come! Arise, O Adam, and recite two cycles of prayer in this state—one in gratitude for the passing of the night of deprivation and separation, one in gratitude for the breaking of the dawn of good fortune and union.”
The first person to make the midday prayer was Abraham the Bosom Friend, at the time when he had been commanded to sacrifice his child. In the dream he had been shown that he had obeyed the command and thrown away the life of his dear child by its decree; in His bounty, the King of the Throne had called him, and he had sacrificed Ishmael. At the hour when the sun begins to wane, the Bosom Friend’s desire was realized and he confirmed the truth of the dream. He looked carefully and saw four states, in each of which he found elevation and a robe of honor. He prepared with gratitude and set out to serve the Presence. He performed four cycles of prayer in gratitude for the four robes of honor: one was gratitude for success-giving, the second gratitude for confirming the truth, the third gratitude for the call, and the fourth gratitude for the sacrifice.
The first person to perform the four-cycle afternoon prayer was Jonah. That well-pleasing servant was in the stomach of the fish, and that fish was in the stomach of another fish. From the bottom of the deep sea came the cry, “There is no god but Thou, glory be to Thee! Surely I am one of the wrongdoers” [21:87].
Listen here to a subtle point: Jonah was imprisoned in the stomach of the whale, and the person of faith will be imprisoned in a tomb in the stomach of the earth.
Muṣṭafā said, “The grave is one of the plots of the Garden.”
Though it is a prison, for the person of faith it is like a scented garden with much repose and ease [56:89]. Jonah in the stomach of the fish, in that darkness and blackness, is the person of faith in the stomach of the earth, with closeness and divine light. The fish’s liver became Jonah’s mirror. In its limpidness, he saw the animals of the sea and their wondrous forms. For the person of faith a door of the tomb is opened to paradise, so along with the divine light are houris, wide-eyed maidens, blessedness, and nearness. Relief came to Jonah, and assistance came to him from the divine bounty, so he came out from that prison to the desert of the world.
That time was the moment for the afternoon prayer. Jonah saw that he had been released from four darknesses: the darkness of slipping, the darkness of night, the darkness of the water, and the darkness of the fish’s stomach. In gratitude for having put aside these four darknesses, he made four cycles of prayer. This is an allusion to the faithful servant, before whom are four darknesses: the darkness of disobedience, the darkness of the tomb, the darkness of the resurrection, and the darkness of hell. When he performs these four cycles of prayer, he is released from one darkness with each cycle.
The first person to make the evening prayer was Jesus, the one made pure—a person of the pure constitution, pure clay, and pure creation who came into the world without a father. In the stomach of his mother he had read the Torah and the Gospel, and in the cradle, he spoke. A people from among the folk of misguidance marveled at this. They said that a child without a father is inconceivable. The arrival of a child and the existence of a lineage is not permissible without two different waters. They said what they said, and they walked on the road of misguidance as they did. Then they wrote out the inscription of [God is] the third of three [5:73]. Gabriel came: “O Jesus, your people said such a thing, and the earth quakes at their saying it. The Creator of earth and heaven is pure of their words.” That was the hour of the prayer of evening. Jesus stood up and hurried to service, asking God for pardon and mercy. He made three cycles of prayer. With one
cycle, he repelled the claim of Lordhood from himself: “You are the great Lord, I am the servant with many offenses.” With the next cycle, he negated divinity from his mother.” The third cycle was an attestation to the oneness of the Enactor, the renowned Uniquely One.
The first person to make the four-cycle prayer of sleep was Moses the Speaking Companion, the caressed of the faultless Creator, the one singled out for the gift of the Unseen, he who earned his wage from Shuʿayb. When his term with Shuʿayb came to an end and he left Midian, he set out for his domicile and thought of his homeland. After he had gone several way stations and the night arrived—a night that pulled the skirt of darkness over the horizons—a fierce wind arose, and rain, thunder, and lightning arrived. Wolves fell upon his flock, and the pain of childbirth came to his wife. The whole world came into tumult for his sake, and the ocean was boiling. On that night, all fire remained inside the stones and not one lamp was lit in the whole world. Moses was helpless in that state. Sometimes he stood, sometimes he sat, sometimes he rolled, sometimes he rested, sometimes he fled, sometimes contracted, sometimes expanded, sometimes his head on his knees, sometimes his face on the ground weeping.
Yes, they put the night-brightening pearl in front of the life-snatching shark, and they built a domicile for the Kaaba of the union in the man-eating desert, so no one ever saw the treasure without suffering, and no one reached the day of good fortune without the grief of tribulation. At last he looked in the direction of the Mount and a ray of light appeared. He heard the call of the Forgiving God: “Surely I am God” [28:30].
Moses had four griefs: the grief of his wife, his child, his brother, and his enemies. The command came, “O Moses, do not grieve and do not sorrow, for I deliver from grief and I take away sorrows.” Moses rose up at that time and made four cycles of prayer in gratitude for those four blessings. This is an allusion that when the faithful servant performs these four cycles of prayer on condition of loyalty, truthfulness, and limpidness, He will suffice him for the business of his wife and child, He will give him victory over his enemies, and He will deliver him from grief and sorrow.