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Ibn Qudaamah Al-Maqdisee And His Comments On The Prayer Part 1

September 27, 2011

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم


He (رحمه الله) said, “And know that the prayer has actions which are pillars, actions which are obligatory and actions which are sunnah. The spirit of prayer is in the niyyah (intention), ikhlaas(sincerity), khushoo’ (awe coupled with humility and submissiveness) and the presence of the heart. The prayer also contains remembrances, private conversations (with Allaah) and physical actions. When the heart is not present the desired goal is not obtained by the remembrances and private conversations with Allaah, the Exalted. Because speech, when it does not express the innermost feelings or what is in the heart is (nothing but) absent-mindedness and folly.

Likewise the desired goal (from the prayer) is not obtained from the (mere performance of) actions. The purpose of the standing in prayer is service (to Allah) and the purpose of the rukoo, and sujood is magnification of Allah and humility to Him. If the heart is not present, the desired goal will not be reached. When an action is devof the purpose and intent behind it, nothing remains except a picture of an impression which has no value to it. Allah, the Exalted, said:

لَن يَنَالَ اللَّـهَ لُحُومُهَا وَلَا دِمَاؤُهَا وَلَـٰكِن يَنَالُهُ التَّقْوَىٰ مِنكُمْ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ سَخَّرَهَا لَكُمْ لِتُكَبِّرُوا اللَّـهَ عَلَىٰ مَا هَدَاكُمْ ۗ وَبَشِّرِ الْمُحْسِنِينَ

It is not the meat or blood (of the sacrifice) which reaches Allaah but it is the taqwaa (which is in your hearts) that reaches Him. (Surah Al-Hajj 22:37)

The meaning here is that what reaches Allaah is the quality which has overtaken and is predominant in the heart, so that this same feeling is present when the requested acts of worship are performed. It is vital that the heart is present. Allah has however, overlooked the unmindfulness which occurs unexpectedly in the prayer because the judgment for maintaining the presence of the heart at the beginning of the prayer continues for the rest of it.
The meanings by which the life of the prayer is perfected are many.

The FIRST: The presence of the heart as we have just mentioned. Its meaning is that the heart is empty and devoid of what is otherwise mixed with it. The cause of that is ambition and aspiration. When a matter is on your mind and concerns you, the heart will by necessity become engaged with it. There is nothing to cure this except to turn all your concerns toward the prayer (alone). A person’s concerns in the prayer intensify and weaken in accordance with the strength of his eemaan in the Hereafter and the extent to which he hold the world in contempt. If you find that your hear is not present during the prayer then know that the reason for it is weak eeman, so you strive to strengthen it.

The SECOND: Understanding the meaning of the words and this is the matter which lies behind the presence of the heart. It may be that the heart is present with the pronunciation of the words but not with the meanings behind them. So it is desirable that the mind is turned towards perceiving their meanings by repelling other distracting thoughts and cutting off their roots because unless roots are cut off the thoughts continue to arise from them.

The root can either be external, such as what occupies hearing and sight, or internal and this is stronger, like the one whose concerns for the world have multiplied and diversified. His thoughts are not restricted to one matter and even lowering h is gaze does not protect him from this because whatever occurs in his heart is enough to keep him occupied.

If the root is external the cure for it is to cut off what occupies the hearing and the seeing and this includes being close to the qiblah (i.e., sutrah), looking at the place of prostration, being careful of and avoiding places which are colorful or attractive and not leaving anything besides oneself which would occupy his perceptions and feelings. The Prophet صلّى الله عليه وسلّم when he prayed in a shirt which had marks up he took it off and said, “It has just diverted me from my prayer.”

If the root is internal, the way to treat it is to compel the soul to become occupied with what one is reciting in the prayer. He should prepare for that before entering the prayer by feeing himself from (thinking about all) other occupations, striving to empty his heart (from everything but the prayer), to renew the remembrance of the hereafter in his soul, realize the seriousness of standing in front of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and the terror of being examined. If these are not the thoughts present (in the prayer) then a person should know that (his heart) is reflecting about those things which produce aspirations and desires in him. Let him therefore leave those desires and cut off those attachments.
Know that when an illness sets in and becomes firm nothing but strong medicine can repel it. When an illness intensifies it competes with the one who prays and the one who prays competes with it until the prayer expires in this competition.
The example of this is of a man who is sitting under a tree, trying to devote himself to thinking and reflecting, but then birds disturb and confuse him. So he tries to make them fly away with the stick which is in his hand. He then thinks and (deep thought) has not yet lodged into his mind when the birds come back. It is said to him, “This thing cannot be prevented. If you want it to stop then cut the tree down.” This tree is the desire. When it becomes sick (corrupted) and its branches become numerous, thoughts and ideas are drawn towards dirt and filth. So one’s precious life is spent in repelling what cannot be repelled. The cause of this desire which brings about these thoughts and ideas is love of the world.

It was said to ‘Aamir ib ‘Abd Qais (رحمه الله), “Do you converse with your soul about anything from the matters of the world during prayer?” He said, “That my teeth become twisted is better to me that that I find this.” Know that cutting off the love of the world from the heart is a difficult task. Let him then strive in whatever is possible and Allaah is the One Who gives support and aid.

Part 2

[1] In his book Mukhtasir Minhaajil-Qaasideen, pp. 29-32.

Source: Ibnul-Qayyim’s “The Path To GUIDANCE” pg. 72-78.

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