Understand: Prayer in Islam

Understand: Prayer in Islam

How important is prayer in Islam?

As the term means Islamwhich comes from the verb aslama : to surrender, to abandon oneself to God, prayer (salat) occupies a central place in the Muslim religion. Second of the five fundamental pillars to which every Muslim refers, it succeeds the shahada, that is to say the profession of faith. “ But it is the first pillar of action » insists Islamologist, professor emeritus and practitioner of Sufism Éric Geoffroy, “it is the testimony of faith visible in the space-time of the life of a Muslim”. Several hadith, these words of the Prophet Mohammed transmitted by tradition, underline this fundamental character. The only Muslim cult revealed without the intermediary of the angel Gabriel, directly to the prophet Mohammed at the end of his ascension, prayer is “the backbone of Islam”insists Tarik Abou Nour, imam in Athis-Mons (Essonne).

This is also the first pillar to be judged on the day of judgment, he underlines before adding: “There is no love without proof. How can we claim to love God if we don’t pray to Him? » Prayer, he specifies, must also lead to “a set of values ​​inscribed in one of the hadith “, as “gentleness, benevolence, generosity, mercy, love of neighbor”. Like Éric Geoffroy, Tarik Abou Nour recalls that the salat (prayer) comes from the word silahthat is to say the link. “We create and recreate with each prayer the bond that has united us to God since pre-eternity”, affirms the Islamologist. Prayer is thus intended to be an encounter between the human and the divine. Salat is sometimes translated as “unitive thanksgiving” because prayer is a reminder of our permanent connection with God. » Prayer, in Islam, cannot be directed towards anyone other than Allah because it is considered that there is no intermediary between God and the creature: “We cannot address Jesus, Mary and other noble messengers and prophets, not even to ask them to intercede”specifies Tarik Abou Nour.

What are the rituals surrounding prayer in Islam?

Five daily prayers must mark the daily life of a Muslim: the dawn prayer, before sunrise, the zenith prayer, at midday, the afternoon prayer, that of sunset and that of the night. Each time, these prayers must be preceded by ablutions, which consist of washing several parts of the body: hands, parts of the face and head, feet. Each of these prayers begins in the same way: the believer recites the Fatihaopening surah of the Quran, which can be translated as: “In the name of Allah the Merciful, the Most Merciful”. “From this moment on, he will no longer look to the right or to the left, which expresses that he must “sacrifice his distraction” to turn entirely towards Allah”explains the philosopher specializing in Islam Abdennour Bidar, in his work The Five Pillars of Islam and their initiatory meaning.

The worshiper first stands with his hands placed behind his ears. “to hear the call of Allah”, further specifies the latter. Then come three other body positions: recline, prostration and kneeling. The faithful must in principle be oriented towards Mecca. But Abdennour Bidar invites “to distinguish geographical Mecca from symbolic Mecca, the latter being found wherever we are given to encounter Allah”. Like Éric Geoffroy, the author places great emphasis on the primacy of intention and the meaning given to each gesture: just like ablutions – which can be dry and done with sand or stone if necessary. – must predispose to contemplation, “Mecca is the abode of the soul installed in the vision of Allah”he notes.

What importance is given to the formal framework which structures the prayer?

There are rituals and there is Dhikr, which corresponds to the prayer of the heart and can be done continuously and in all circumstances. The rituals are drawn from the Koran and the Sunnah: in the first appears the obligation of prayer, in the second the number of prayers requested and their form are specified. According to Tarik Abou Nour, “these frameworks serve to conform to what the Lord taught us through his prophet”and leaving these frameworks is conducive to excesses. “We do not have clergy but scholars who have received these rituals authentically”specifies the imam and theologian.

Catching up with the five prayers in the evening when, for compelling reasons, they could not be performed is, according to the imam, an obligation: “It is God’s debt”he explains, and “scrupulous respect for what God has asked of us”. A debt that should not be taken lightly, according to him: “God in his mercy has allowed this catch-up. » But he insists: this obligation should not obliterate the meaning of prayer. Two pitfalls arouse his fear. On the one hand, transforming worship into food for the ego through a formalism emptied of all meaning: “Prayers are not boxes to check or show off”, he warns; on the other hand, the opposite pitfall, which would consist of freeing oneself from worship and transforming Islam into a spiritual vision. The Islamologist Éric Geoffroy, more liberal, is more moderate about this evening catch-up: “There is a structure but it is only an apparent framework of obligations, because God knows man”he states.

What do the different body positions that accompany prayer mean?

According to Abdennour Bidar, the four positions practiced during prayer are the stages of an initiatory journey, towards the encounter with Allah: the standing position signifies the human impulse towards Allah and the descent of it towards the human, the inclined position is also the reciprocal gesture of the human and the divine: “He bends to straighten us”, he writes. In the gesture of prostration, the ego disappears to leave room for Allah: “a clean slate of the self”. Finally, sitting on your knees symbolizes entering into a new life. “The best is to pray in a group, it’s very beautiful, there is harmony”affirms Tarik Abou Nour, who specifies that the mosque in Arabic means “the unifier”: it is the place that unites hearts.

Prayer, the second pillar of Islam

The word prayer in Arabic, salatitself comes from the word silahwhich means “link”. Prayer thus designates the link, the encounter between the human and the divine.

Prayer is the second pillar of Islam and occupies a central place in the life of a Muslim. It is also the first pillar to be evaluated on the day of judgment.

Five prayers must mark the daily life of a Muslim. They all begin with the same surah and invite the faithful to adopt four different body positions. They scale according to the sun and the light.

The rituals which structure the prayers are an integral part of them and are loaded with meaning. If the believer does not direct his intention towards these senses and towards Allah when praying, he is invited to repeat his prayer.

Prayer in Islam, Eva de Vitray-Meyerovitch

Response reported from Rumi, poet and Sufi master, to the question: “Is there a shorter way than prayer to approach God? »

“More prayer. But prayer is not only this external form. This is the “body” of prayer; formal prayer has a beginning and an end, and everything that involves a beginning and an end is a body. THE takbir is the beginning of the prayer, and the salam its end. Likewise, the profession of faith (shahada) is not only what we say while moving our lips: because this formula has a beginning and an end; and whatever is expressed by letters and sounds and has a beginning and an end is a form and a body. But the soul of prayer is unconditioned and infinite, it has neither beginning nor end. Finally, only the prophets (upon them salvation!) brought prayer, and the Prophet, who taught us, said: “I have moments with God that neither a sent prophet nor an angel close to God can achieve.” Therefore, the soul of prayer is not only its form: it prepares for absorption in God and loss of consciousness. So all forms remain outside. There is no more room in the soul then, even for Gabriel who is a pure spirit. »

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