Our righteous ancestors have set the perfect example in the way they preserved the Prayer,even when they were ill and weak.When Amir bin Abdullah heard the Adhan while he was dying,he said:
"Lead me by my han.'They said to him,'You are ill.'He said ,'How can I hear Mu'adhdhin, yet,do not respond to it?'They took him by his hand,and his home was near the mosque,and he started the MAghrib prayer behind the Imam and died upon finishing only one Rak'ah." [Sifatu As-Safwah,vol.2,p.131 ans As-Siyar, vol.5,p.220]
Moreover ,the Farooq (i.e,who distinguished between goodness and evil)of the Muslim Ummah,'Umar(ra) became unconscious after he was stabbed,and according to Al Miswar bin Makhramah ,it was said:
"Nothing would wake him up except the call to prayer,if he is still alive."They said to him,"The prayer has finished,O Chief of the faithful!"He woke up and said,"The prayer,by Allah !Verily,there is no share in islam for whoever abndons the prayer."He performed the prayer while his wound was bleeding.[Tarikh Umar,p.243]
Umar(ra) ,for he was so eager and protective of the prayer that companions,who knew this fact of him,thought that if they mentioned the prayer to him ,he would wake up from his unconsciousness.This is exactly what happened,for when he was reminded that he did not pray yet,he woke up.In contrast ,some people in the present time like to sleep when it is so close to prayer time,while some others are being woke up for prayer,but do not respond.
Moreover,after Ar-Rabi' bin Khaytham became partially paralysed,he used to go to the mosque helped by two men.He was told:
"O Abu Yazid!You have been given permission to pray at home."He said,"You have said the truth, but I heard the caller herald,'Hayya 'ala al-Falah(Come to success),' and I thought that whoever hears this call should answer it even by crawling." [Hilyatu Al-Auliya Wa Tabaqhatu Al Asfiyaa,by Al Hafith Abu Na'im,vol.2,p.113]
Truly,they were eager to join the prayer with obedience to Allah and His commandments and in anticipation for what He has prepared with Him of reward and bounties. Adi bin Hatim(ra) said:
"Every time the prayer time falls,it falls when I am eager for it and ready to perform it(i.e having Wudhu) [Az-Zuhd,by Imam Ahmad,p.249]
Mu'adhdhin and the Dwelling of Peace, and Paradise has moved the honorable hearts and motivated the inner-selves ,and thus, fell on responsive believing ears.Allah made the call to prayer reach those who are alive,by their Faith,and directed them to the grades of the pious ,leading them through the journey until they arrived at the Dwelling of Eternity.
The importance our Salaf placed on the prayer brought them joy and delight when its time started;they were delighted and elated by this great favor that Allah had bestowed on them.Indeed ,as Abu Bakar ibn Abdullah Al-Muzany stated:
"Who is like you,O son of Adam?Whenever you wish, you use water to make Ablution,go to the place of worship and thus enter the presence of Your Lord (i.e., start praying) without a translator or a barrier between you and Him"[Al-Bidayah Wan -Nihayah,by Ibn Kathir,v.9,p.256]
There is no doubt that those who miss these bounties should feel grief,especially since time is the essence of man's existence and his only capital.Abu Rajaa Al-'Ataridi said:
"Nothing that i leave behind grieves me, except i used to bow down on my face five times a day before my Lord,the Exalted and Most Honored" [Hilyatu Al-Auliya ,v.2,p.306]
They gave the prayer is due consideration and honored it at its true value .Umar (ra) once said:
"If you see a man being careless concerning the prayer,then by Allah!He will be more careless,in everything else."[Tarikhu Umar,p.204]
Furthermore ,Abu Al-Aliyah said: "I would travel for days to meet a man and the first thing i notice about him is his prayer. If he establish the prayer perfectly and on time I would stay with him and hear knowledge he had. If I found him to be careles concerning the prayer,I would leave him and say to myself that for things other than the prayer,he would be even more careless."
Giving the prayer its due importance and consideration ,was also taught to children ,in obedience to the Prophet's command:
"Order your children to pray at the age of seven and discipline them for it at the age of ten and seprate between their beds." [Abu Dawud,Ahmad abd Al Al-Hakim;Al-Albani rendered it Hassan]
in this context ,we could understand why Zaid Al-Ayami used to tell children ,"Come and pray and i will give you some hazelnuts."The children would come and pray and then gather around him to get nuts .He was asked why he did that and he said,"I buy some nuts for them for five dirhams and they get used to praying."
In the present time, many people are concerned about teaching materialism to their children and satisfying their desires for food,drink and recreation. However,they dedicate little attention to their primary role and job as parents,that is ,teaching their children true Islamic ideals and making them get used to praying ,including questioning them if they come late for it.Allah,The Exalted and Most Honored said:
"O you who believe!Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones."(66:6)
"O you who believe!Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones."(66:6)
Loving the prayer and rushing to perform it with Khushu' and perfection inwardly and outwardly ,demonstrates the heart's love for Allah and eagerness to meet Him. On the other hand, disinterest in the prayer, laziness towards rushing to answer the Adhan, and performing it alone away from the congregational pf Muslims in the mosque,without a valid excuse, are all indications that the heart is empty of Allah's love and disinterested in what He has with Him.
Let us compare Our mannerism with regards to Khushu' in the prayer with that of the Salaf.Maymun bin Hayyan said:
"I never saw Muslim bin Yasar turning his head while praying,whether the prayer was short or long.Once,a part of the mosque came down and the noise caused fear to the people who were in the market,while he was in the mosque did not fear or even turn his head and keep praying." [Az-Zuhd,by Imam Ahmad,p.359]
When Khalaf bin Ayub was asked: "Why do you not swat at flies while praying, do they not bother you?"He said,"I will not do something that might become a habit and thus spoil my prayer for me."He was asked how he observed patience in that situation.He replied, "I was told that sinners observe patience when they are flogged by the Muslim authority and even boast about being patient in that situation.I am standing before My LOrd,would I move because of a fly?" [Al-Ihya ,vol.1,p.179]
Also when Ibn Az-Zubair stood up for prayer, he used to stand formally as if he was a piece of wood,due to his observing Khushu'. As for Abu Hanifah, he was called Al-Watad,the pole,because of his praying often with Khushu'.
Moreover the Salaf used to perform long prayers,as often as they could.Ubaidullah bin Sulaiman said about his grandfather ,Abu Ubaidullah Al-Wazir:
"My grandfather's knees, face and hands wore through several mats due to his praying long prayers regularly.He also said that his grandfather gave away a great deal of food every day as charity, and when the prices went up he gave away double that amount."
Once upon a time, Abu Abdullah An-Nuba'hi was leading people in prayer in the city of Tarsus, when the call to Jihad was suddenly announced. However, he did not lessen the length of his recitation of prayer,and when he finished, people said to him,"The call to Jihad was announced but you did not lessen the length of prayer.
"He said,"I did not think that there were people who pray,and hear other things outside the prayer,instead of what they are invoking Allah with."[Sifat As-Safwah,vol.4,p.279]
They were just as Ibn Rajab described them in his book'Lata'if al-Ma'arif' ,"When they heard Allah's statements: So compete in good deeds."(5:48)
And "Race with one another in hastening towards forgiveness from your Lord(Allah), and Paradise the width whereof is as the width of the heaven and the earth."(57:21)
They understood from these statements that each one among them should strive hard to compete in the race to acquire these honors and to reach the high grades and ranks. When one of them saw that another person was performing a righteous deed that he was unable to perform,he feared that whoever performed that good deed would beat him in the race , and he felt sad for this fact.
They competed in earning the high grades of the Hereafter as if in a race ,but after them,there came people who did the opposite and competed to earn the insignificant delights and perishable goods of this life.
When Abu Talhah (ra) once prayed in a garden he owned and became busy observing a bird that was flying around his trees,he ended up unaware how many Rak'ah he had prayed.HE want to Messenger of Allah(pbuh) and told him what had happened and declared:
"O Messenger of Allah(pbuh)! I give my garden as charity,so spend it however you wish." [Al-Ihya,vol.1,p.194]
Another man was once praying in a garden of date trees and was admiring it so much that he did not know how many Rak'ah he prayed. He told Caliph Uthman(ra) what happened and said:
"I give that garden as charity,so spend it in cause of Allah,the Exalted,the Most Honored." Uthman (ra ) sold the garden for fifty thousand. [Al-Ihya,vol.1,p.194]
These two righteous men gave away their gardens,because they gave due consideration to the importance of the prayer. Each one of us will depart this life in the time between a prayer he performed and a prayer he is waiting for.Therefore,we ought to perform each prayer as if we are sure it is the last one we will be able to perform,so that Allah might end our deeds with our most righteous and good deeds and accept them from us and generously erase our sins.
Imam Muhammad bin Isma'il Al-Bukhari,who compiled Sahih Al-Bukhari, was praying one night when a wasp stung him close to twenty times. When he finished the prayer,he said,"Find out what bothered me!" The exalted level of patience the Salaf had while praying was possible because of the tremendous Khushu' and attention they gave to invoking Allah and praying to Him.Abu Naasr Al-FAradis said that he used to hear the sound of teardrops falling from Sa'id bin Abdul-Aziz eyes down,onto the mat while praying.[Tathkiratu Al-Huffath ,vol.1,p.219]
In contrast there is hard-heartedness in the present time demonstrated by many who do not shed tears while praying, except a few who do so only during the month of Ramadan.Sadly,this is because there are a few in the crowds that gather in the mosques feel humbleness and submission in their hearts before their Lord while praying.
Old age and weak bodies did not stop the righteous people of our Salaf from standing in prayer before Allah for long periods of time. For instance,Abu-Ishaq As-Subay'ii said complaining:
"I have lost the strength to pray much!I have become weak and my bones have become feeble, because these days,when I stand up in prayer I am only able to recite Surah Al-Baqarah and Al-Imran,reciting them an entire night."[Sifatu As-Safwah,vol.3,p.104]
As for 'Ata bin Abu Rabah, as Ibn Jurayj described about him:"I accompanied 'Ata bin Rabah for eighteen years. When he became old and weak,he used to stand in prayer and read close to two hundred Ayat from Surat Al-Baqarah while standing in such firmness that no part of him could move." [As-Siyar,vol.5,p.87]
Old age and weakness that it brings to the body did not stop Ata from having Khushu' in the prayer and reciting the Qur'an for extended periods of time while standing firm with full submissiveness. Furthermore, Muslim bin Bannaq Al-MAkki narrated that Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, who was known for standing in prayer for a long time ,once bent down in Ruku for so long ,that it allowed Muslim to recite Surat AL-BAqarah ,Al-Imran, An-Nisa and Al-Ma'idah, before Ibn Az-Zubair raised his head from Ruku.[Al-Bidayah Wan Nihaya,vol.8,p.359]
Also, Al-Walid bin 'Ali narrated that Suwayd bin Ghaflah was leading prayer during Ramadan, when he was one hundred and twenty years old! Moreover, Mar'ruf bin Wasl At-Taymi was the Imam of his people for sixty years and he never made mistakes in the recitation of the Noble Qur'an, because he was so careful in the prayer.
Talaq bin HAbib used to say: "I love standing in prayer for Allah until my back hurts."
He would stand up in prayer and recite the Qur'an from the begining until Surat Al-Hijr(chapter 15) and then make the Ruku(so that about the length of his entire prayer.) Thabit Al-Banani said that he used to pass by Abdullah bin Az-Zubair while praying and standing as firm as a tree fixed in the ground.
We complain to Allah for the way we treat the prayer,which is the fastest act we perform these days.Some of us might pray as fast as the chicken picks seeds from the ground, many do not feel humbleness or Khushu' and many pray with disinterest and inattention.If we observe the way these and most other people conduct their life affairs ,we will see dedication ,patience,concern and excellence in taking and giving for the sake of few dirhams or dollars that they would earn!Why is it that we are so disinterested in performing the prayer with perfection and excellence?
Abdullah bin Mas'ud ra used to so motionless while praying that he would be compared to a piece of garment thrown on a floor,while Sa'id bin Jubair would stand as firm as a pole. A similar description was given to the way Abdullah bin Az-Zubair performedthe prayer,that birds would almost land on his back while he was performing Ruku so firmly and with Khushu.
We might find it amzing that the Salaf felt such Khushu' and humbleness in the prayer, especially since we do not witness such dedication and excellence nowdays.As for the prayer of Our Salaf,we continue, it was different.Al-Anbas bin 'Aqbah used to make such an exalted Sujud that the birds would land on his back thinking that he was an extension of the wall.[Az-Zuhd,p.496]
Abu Bakr bin Aiyash said: "If you saw 'Habib bin Abu Thabit while in sujud,you would think that he had died because of his long prostration." [As-Siyar,vol.5,p.291]
Furthermore, Ibn Wahb narrated that he saw Sufyan Ath-Thauri in the mosque at Makkah performing voluntry prayer after MAghrib and go into suh a long Sajadah,that he only raised his head when the time for Isha prayer came.[As-Siyar,vol.7,p.266]
Is it they for whom the flag of Paradise was raised and they raced to earn it,and the straight path was laid for them and they took it firmly.They believed that it was a great error to sell what no eye has seen ,no ear has heared and no heart has imagined of delight in the eternal dwelling,in return for a perishable life that passes as fast as a dream and is full of grief and depression.If this life makes one laugh a little, it also brings many instances of crying,and if it delighted for a day,it would cause grief for months.The pain in this life overcomes its delights and its sadness over-weighs its happiness this life goes on with various fears and ends in certain demise.
Abu Qatan said: "Whenever I saw Shu'bah bin Al-Hajjaj go into Ruku or Sujud,I would say to myself that he has forgotten(because of the length of Shu'bah's Ruku and Sujud.)" [Tathkiratu Al-Huffath,vol.1,p.193]
Also Ali bin Al-Fudhayl said: "I saw Ath-Thauri went into Sujud while praying, and I performed Tawaf around the House seven times before he raised his head from sujud."[As-Siyar,vol.7,p.277]
Even though they were so concerned and dedicated in performing the prayer in the best manner,they still had fears, as Uthman bin Abi Dahrash stated:
"I never performed a prayer without invoking Allah afterwards to forgive me for falling into shortcomings in the way i performed it." [Tarikhu Baghdad,vol.13,p.207]
To further describe the way the Salaf conducted the religion,we should mention that Mu'awiyah ibn Murrah said:
"I lived during the time of seventy of the companions of Muhammmad pbuh, and they lived among you today,they would not recognize any of your acts except the Adhan." [Hilayatu Al-Auliyaa ,vol.2,p.299]
Moreover ,Maymun bin Mahran said: "If a man from the Salaf was resurrected among you today, he would only recognize your Qiblah (direction of the prayer,the Ka'bah at Makkah)."
This s how different the way of conducting the religion varied from the time of the companions to the time of teh early generations of Islam. What would they say about us,then,if one of them was to be resurrected in our time?
When Hatim Al-Asamm was asked about his prayer,he said: "When it is near the time of prayer, I perform a perfect Wudhu (ablution) ,and go to where I am going to pray and sit down there until I become fully attentive to what I am about to do.I then stand up and pray,imagining that the Ka'bah is in front of my eyes,Paradise to my right, Hell-fire to my left and Angel of death behind me.
I imagine that it is the last prayer I am about to perform,stand up in hope (in Allah,His paradise and rewards) and fear (from Allah's torment in Hell-fire) and recite the Takbir while having full attention.I recite the Qur'an calmly,make Ruku humbly ,go into Sujud with Khushu and then sit on my left leg,with the left foot laid on the floor and the right foot raised up,all the while praying with sincerity. Afterwards, I do not know(or feel certain) if that prayer was accepted from me."[Al-Ihya,vol.1,p.179]