What Does it mean, really?

The Soul of Prayer
Jalalu’l-Din was asked, “Is there any way  to God nearer than the ritual prayer?” “No,” he replied; “but prayer does not consist in forms alone. Formal prayer has a beginning and an end, like all forms and bodies and everything that partakes of speech and sound; but the soul is unconditioned and infinite: it has neither beginning nor end. The prophets have shown the true nature of prayer…Prayer is the drowning and unconsciousness of the soul, so that all these forms remain without. At that time there is no room even for Gabriel, who is pure spirit. One may say that the man who prays in this fashion is exempt from all religious obligations, since he is deprived of his reason. Absorption in the Divine Unity is the soul of prayer.”
Sufis often describe “the naughting of self-consciousness (fana’u ‘l-sifat)” which results from intense concentration of every faculty on God in the performance of the ritual prayer (salat). The Prophet is said to have declared that no salat is complete without the inward presence of God. To him, every salat was a new Ascension (mi’raj), in which he left even Gabriel behind.

The mi’raj event is a significant transition for the prophet. He was tested and educated with the death of his beloved ; Khadijah and Abu Talib. The prophet seemed to have become doubly vulnerable: he had lost the person who had offered him love and the person who had granted him protection. So God granted him the Night Journey ; one of the turning point in his life where he found protection and love again.

The Night Journey is a gift from God, parallel with reception of the ritual prayer. God has prescribed requirements and norms that the mind must hear and implement and the heart must love. The experience and the prophet himself revealed what prayer must in essence be : a reminder of and an elevation toward the Most High, five times a day, in order to detach oneself, from the world, and from illusions. For the prophet, the Night Journey is preganant with deep meaning and faith ; a moment of epiphany-mi’raj. For us, the moment of epiphany-mi’raj, should be in our salat. Isra’ mi’raj is a gift from God to the prophet to heal his sorrow of his beloved’s death. Salat is a gift from God to us in order to heal us from our attachement of the world and the sorrow that lies within.

So what does it all mean in Ramadhan?

The Holy month – as people prescribed it. Not only about ticking the to-do list and competing who finishes the recitation of the Qur’ran the fastest or merely how many rakaat of taraweeh that you do. But the very deep meaning lies within. It’s the month of mercy celebration. It’s the month of smile, tears, softness of the hands and words; it’s the month of love. Parallel with the London Oympics 2012, one can earn a great deal of lessons from both events but there is a different kind of engagement in each event. When you sit in front of the tv watching Lee Chong Wei acing the first game – jumping up and down the couch silently do a shouting gesture cheering for him, you were actually observing a history made to be written. Yet when you break your fast and perform taraweeh after your Isya’ prayer, – and the very last moment of each sujuds, hot tears came down pouring, you were actually part of history. A history not being written by human hand, but by Him and by your heart. That is the moment of epiphany. Your moment of Ascension – mi’raj. And Ramadhan is just a lovely month to renew your quality of your mi’raj.

Let’s cry out of our demand for His Love in this last phase of Ramadhan.


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