The Essence of Salah – A Khutbah

The following khutbah was delivered on August 21st, 2015, in Fullerton, California, at the Sayed Jamaluddin Al-Afghani Mosque.


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Imam al-Ghazzali, one of the great thinkers in Islam, said about salah (prayer), that it has four admiral qualities:

فإن الصلاة عماد الدين, وعصام اليقين, ورأس القربات, وغرة الطاعات.

  1. The support center of the Din;
  2. The means of holding tight to certainty;
  3. The foremost means of drawing close to God;
  4. The act amongst the acts of obedience to God;

An ‘imad is like a tent-pole. The pole which makes the rest of the tent a place of habitation. Without it, the tent collapses. Being that the word din is related to dayn, debt, the means of supporting your debt to God is through salah.

Isam, its literal meaning being “a strap”, is a means of tying something down. The way to achieving certainty (yaqin) is not achieved through intellectual endeavors alone. It is achieve through habitual action. The salah is a means of doing that habitual action which “ties us to God”.

Remember, that ra’s is not only the head of something, but also a beginning. The beginning of drawing close to God begins with salah. You will not achieve it through any singular intellectual endeavor, no matter how smart.

The word gurrah refers to a beauty mark that the Arabs would say a horse would have on its face. A white mark. Ghurrah, a mark of superiority, of quality, is what’s being emphasized here. In these two verses, we’re reminded the beautification that salah gives us on the Day of Judgment:

وُجوهٌ يَومَئِذٍ ناضِرَةٌ

إِلىٰ رَبِّها ناظِرَةٌ

“Faces that Day will be radiant, gazing at their Lord.” Qur’an, 75: 22-23

The Swords of Self-Discipline

I have been taking the time to re-read al-Ghazzali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din again (as I do from time to time) and always enjoy the anecdotes and aphorisms he sprinkles throughout his prose. One in particular is from Yahya bin Mu’adh al-Razi:

جاهد نفسك بأسياف الرياضة – والرياضة على أربعة أوجه: القوت من الطعام, والغمض من المنام, والحاجة من الكلام وحمل الأذى من جميع الأنام فتولد من قلة الطعام موت الشهوات, ومن قلة المنام صفو الإرادات, ومن قلة الكلام السلامة من الآفات, من احتمال الأذى, البلوغ إلى الغايات وليس على العبد شيء أشد من الحلم عند الجفاء والصبر على الأذى, وإذا تحركت من النفس إرادة الشهوات والآثام وهاجت منها حلاوة فضول الكلام جردت عليها سيوف قلة الطعام من غمد التهدج وقلة من المنام, وضربتها بأيدي الخمول وقلة من الكلام حتى تنقطع من الظلم والانتقام, فتأمن من بواثقها من بين سائر الأنام وتصفيها من ظلمة شهواتها فتنجو من غوائل آفاتها – فتصير عند ذلك نظيفة ونورية خفيفة روحانية فتجول في ميدان الخيرات وتسير في مسالك الطاعات كالفرس الفارة في الميدان وكالملك المتنزه في البستان

“Struggle against your soul with the swords of self-discipline. They are of four kinds: little nourishment, sleeping little, speaking only when there’s a need and bearing wrongs enacted against you. Restricting your eating will be the death of unwanted passions; sleeping little clarifies ones aspirations; speaking little keeps one safe from afflictions and bearing injustices against oneself will help you obtain your goals, for there is nothing more arduous against God’s servant than to grant clemency when one is repudiated, bearing wrongs inflicted on oneself by others. And when your passions begin to stir your soul to unwanted ends and sins, and one feels delight in indulgence, unsheathe the sword of eating little from the scabbard Tahajjud and sleep but little. Strike these desires with the fists of lethargy and silence until they no longer oppress you nor avenge themselves against you and you are safe from their calamities til the end of your days, having purified them of the darkness of carnal desires, so that you escape unscathed from their perilous consequences. From this point you will become pure, immaculate and radiant, subtle in spirituality, free to roam about all that is good, traversing the paths of obedience to God like a fleet-footed steed in the field, like a king promenading in his garden.” From Kitab Riyadhah al-Nafs.

The Danger of Procrastination

 قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم تقبل توبة العبد ما لم يغرغر أخرجه الترمذي وابن الماجه

The Prophet [صلى الله عليه وسلم] said: “The slave’s repentance is accepted until he gives the death rattle.” Transmitted to us by the authority of al-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah.

Imam al-Ghazali relates to us from the Revival of the Religious Sciences, Ihya’ Ulum al-Din, from the book: The Remembrance of Death and The Afterlife, by which he conveys for us the nature of a dying man: He peers out on the world and its people for one last time while the door of repentance is closed for good. In doing so, he is overcome with sorrow and remorse.

God Made Intentions A Means To Success

جزء من الباب الأول في حقيقة النية ومعناه من إحياء علوم الدين. فيه قال إمام الغزالي
فجعل النية سبب التوفيق وقال صلى الله عليه وسلم
إن الله تعالى لا ينظر إلى صوركم وأموالكم وإنما ينظر إلى قلوبكم وأعمالكم

An excerpt from the first chaper entitled, “Regarding the Reality of Intentions and Its Meaning”, from the Book of Intentions, Sincerity, and Truthfulness, in the Ihyā’ Ulum al-Dīn, in which Imam al-Ghazāli says:

Thus, God made intentions the means to success, to which he [the Prophet – may God bless him and grant him peace] said:

“Surely, God the Exalted does not look at your forms or your wealth but He does however, look into your hearts and at your deeds.”

Preparing For A Thing Will Never Be Easy

قال إمام الغزالي في كتابه إحياء علوم الدين في الكتاب العاشر, ذكر الموت وما بعده : لن يتيسر الاستعداد للشيء إلا تجدد ذكره على القلب

Imam al-Ghazāli said, in his opus, Ihyā’ Ulum al-Dīn, the tenth book in the collection entitled, The Remembrace of Death and What Happens After It:

“Preparing for a thing will never be easy without continued reminders concerning that very thing, in the heart.”