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Making An Early Start For Prayers: Self-effacing Value Instilled In Muslim’s Mind

Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Abu Hurayrah quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: “If people knew the benefit they receive for making the call to prayer and being in the first row in congregational prayers, they would have drawn lots, should this be the only way to determine who makes these. Had they known the benefit of coming early to prayer, they would have raced for that. Had they known what they would receive for attending Isha and Fajr prayers, they would have been keen to attend, even though they may have to come crawling.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).

Islam requires its followers to be self-effacing when it comes to the fulfillment of their worship duties. Greater reward is given for an act of worship that is done in the dead of the night when no one is aware of your worship other than God. The very fact that you are keen to let no one know what you are doing is a mark of sincerity and true devotion. God has promised to reward fasting as He rewards no other action. This is due to the fact that fasting admits no hypocrisy. It is an act of worship accomplished by abstention from what man desires most for the preservation of oneself and one’s kind.

When this self-effacing value is instilled in a Muslim’s mind, that person will be keen to avoid prominence among worshippers. He would prefer to be an ordinary member of the congregation. Therefore, when the Prophet told his companions that they should be keen to make the front rows in a congregational prayer, many of those distinguished by their intelligence, learning and wisdom stayed in the back. The Prophet kept encouraging them to come forward, stating Hadiths of the type: “The best of men’s rows are the front ones while the best of women’s rows are those at the back.” Still, some preferred to stay behind. He then made it clear that they were wrong. He said: “Some of you will remain behind until God puts them behind.”

The Hadith we are discussing today is in the same vain. It stresses the importance of congregational prayers, choosing the early part of the time span of each prayer. It also gives an idea of the better reward those who make the front row receive. The Prophet does not specify the reward in any detail. He only says that it is so great that people would have competed to be in the front row. Should that be difficult as a result of too many people coming early to the mosque, they may have to draw lots. The Prophet says that they would resort to it if it was the only way, because they would be very keen to receive its better reward.

Coming early to prayer is a mark of sincerity. It demonstrates that a person is keen to fulfill the duty imposed by God in the best manner. It suggests that one loves to fulfill that duty. This is totally different from approaching other duties that require time, effort or money, when people are normally unenthusiastic to do what is required of them.

Isha and Fajr prayers are offered at night. The time span of the first starts about one and half hours after sunset and continues until late into the night, while Fajr prayer starts at dawn and finishes at sunrise. Therefore, these two prayers require making a real effort to attend to them. Hypocrites, who try to show that they are good Muslims when they are not, find them particularly hard to fulfill. Hence God attaches rich reward to them when offered with true devotion. The Prophet says that if people only know what they receive out of offering these two prayers regularly on time, they would have made every effort not to miss them at all. They would even come crawling to attend them, if that is necessary.

 

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