10 Nov What is the Point of Worship, and Why Does it Have to Be Done in a Certain Way?.Part2
Based on this, the Mu’tazilis and (to some extent) the Maturidis, say that even in the absence of Prophets or guides, we should be able to gain some knowledge of God by observing the universe and then act accordingly. There is some evidence to support this argument. Before Islam, many people, including Muhammad, were born and lived in Makkah, the heartland of Arab paganism and idolatry. No one showed them the way to God or spoke to them of the Oneness of God (tawhid). And yet history records the remarks of a desert nomad of that time:
“Camel droppings point to a camel’s existence. Footprints on the sand tell of a traveler. Heaven with its stars, the Earth with its mountains and valleys, and the sea with its waves—don’t they point to the All-Powerful, Knowing, Wise, and Caring Maker?”
If even a simple bedouin could understand this much, what about others? What about Muhammad, who one day would be appointed to deliver God’s final Revelation? Long before the Revelation began, he understood the world’s reality, perceived the Truth (al-Haqq) in the grand Book of the Universe, and began to search for it. Taking refuge in Hira cave, he devoted himself to worship. ‘A’isha, narrating directly from Khadija, said that he gave himself up to prayer, only occasionally coming home for provisions. This might indicate that we can reach some degree of knowledge and so worship God.
Zayd ibn ‘Amr, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s uncle, reached a similar understanding. Although he died before Muhammad’s Prophethood, he intuitively felt the truth of Islam in the air, as well as the meaning and significance of Prophet Muhammad’s coming. As he lay dying, he called his family members and said:
“The light of God is on the horizon. I believe it will emerge fully very soon. I already feel its signs over our heads.”
Addressing God, he continued:
“O Great Creator! I have not been able to know You thoroughly. Had I known, I would have put my face upon the ground before You and never raised it in quest of Your pleasure.”
Evidently, a pure conscience free of any traces of paganism and polytheism can understand its own station and duty when it seen creation’s splendor and harmony, and thus seek to serve and please the One who created and ordained all things.
Knowing God entails worshipping Him. As he provides everything for us, we are obliged to serve Him. One of these blessings is that of prayer. God tells us how to pray so that we will do it correctly and effectively.
God told the Prophet how to pray, and we are told to follow his example. There are certain rules to follow. Before beginning, we must purify ourselves with the proper ablution. Depending on our circumstances, this can be ghusl (full ablution), wudu’ (regular ablution), or tayammum (ablution in the absence of water). Then we say Allahu akbar, meaning that nothing is greater than God. Standing in a peaceful, respectful stillness, with hands joined together on our chest, indicates our complete surrender. Concentrating as fully and deeply as possible allows us to experience, based upon our level of spiritual development, the Prophet’s ascension in our spirit.
Rising up inwardly, we bow down physically to renew our surrender and express our humility. As we do so, we experience a different stage in our servanthood and so prostrate in fuller reverence and humility. According to the depth of surrender there, we enter into different realms. Hoping for further progress, we raise our head, say a few words, and then lower it again for the second prostration. After this, we may experience the meaning of the hadith in Muslim’s Sahih:
“The servant is never closer to God than when prostrating in worship. Make more supplications while prostrating”; and the meaning of: Who sees you when you stand and your movements among those who prostrate themselves (26:218–19).
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